The Role of the Software Architect

Behind every piece of custom software and new software product is a story and a team. Some parts of the story are better told than others and some members of the team work farther in the shadows. One of these roles is filled by the software architect. Who is this team member and what does he or she do?

The Role

The word architect means one who designs and supervises. A software architect is exactly that for the software creation process. Just as a traditional architect would design and supervise the birth of a new building or bridge, a software architect designs and supervises the end product or solution in a way that the specialized developers and/or designers cannot.

In order to do this, the software architect must have a unique set of talents and knowledge. He or she combines knowing the technologies with keeping a high-level view of the project. In addition, the architect has a collaborative view of the work that needs to be done by all the developers concerned. Unlike a project manager, who tends to be more customer-oriented, the architect knows the technology being used. They have a better grasp on what the developers are doing and where the project is heading.

The Reason

Why does a team need such a member? After all, if the team works well together, there is no need for an additional person to keep watching the experts who know what they are doing. Particularly if a project manager is already involved, a software architect can seem unnecessary to the customer at the other end.

First of all, even if it is not clearly defined, an architect will exist. If it is not centralized, the entire team can each end up with a part. This can lead to a disjointed situation and additional confusion. When the design and oversight are primarily one person’s job, it frees up the specialists to do what they do best without having to worry about what the others are doing. Designers have no need to worry–we’ll discuss the separation of these roles in the next section.

The Responsibilities

Depending on the size of the team and the project, a software architect can wear multiple hats. To complicate the matter, the roles of software designer and software architect can at times merge into one.

The defining aspect of a software architect’s role is that he or she is the team member who figures out how a solution or product will be made. The responsibilities of keeping to the project scope, selecting technologies to be used, considering and deciding all revisions, and more fall on an architect’s plate as well.  

The most important thing to keep in mind when differentiating between the architect and designer is that architecture is design, but not all design is architecture. Generally, a decision is made by the architect regarding what aspects of the design are architectural and what aspects are detailed design. Because every product and solution is unique and design is fluid, many of these decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis.

The Rewards

What are the benefits of having a dedicated software architect on your team, even if they are wearing multiple hats? Perhaps the most important benefit for all concerned is that the architect lays the foundation for the entire team to build on. As the product is built out, the architect is right there making sure that the scope is being followed, revisions  are making sense to all concerned, and that the lines of communication are open.

When the software is firmly founded, costs are reduced, productivity increases, and scope creep is avoided. Less revisions are needed, reusable assets can be created in more efficient ways, and the quality of the work is higher. Risk management lowers, adaptability increases, and more.

Here at Swan Software Solutions, we understand the need for affordable, scalable work. We also see the value of having team members such as software architects and project managers. To bridge the gap, we provide all of the key roles that are not needed full time on the project but are essential to success–without additional cost to you! Learn more today from our best practices, or contact us here. We look forward to hearing from you!

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