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What is a Solution Architect’s Role, and Why is It So Important?

All marketing technology implementations require a variety of architectural roles to get to the finish line, from strategic visionaries to technical domain experts. In this article, we define the three primary architects needed for a successful implementation, and dive into how critical the solution architect role is in taking the vision to action.

The set of skills and experience that defines each of these architectural roles can resemble one another, however they do vary greatly across the spectrum of breadth and depth of martech expertise. Even though the roles may seemingly blend together, they all serve distinct functions to successfully transform from the current technology state to the future integrated technology vision.

Architecture roles defined

Architect types at a glance:

Enterprise Architect

The enterprise architect is the visionary of an implementation, responsible for ensuring that the architecture meets the organizations goals. They are responsible for interpreting the ask of the organization and constructing the high-level vision of the implementation. Although the enterprise architect often has a more technical background, they do rely on a team of both solution and domain architects to execute the implementation.

Domain Architect

The domain architect is the most technical of all the roles during an implementation, with a more narrow scope of expertise. The domain architect’s expertise lies in a particular tool, or domain, such as a specific CRM software or database technology. As the most in-depth of the architects, they are responsible for the technical structure of the respective systems and ensuring the proper implementation.

Solution Architect

The solution architect maintains a deep understanding of all critical business and technical requirements. The person in this role is knowledgeable of the systems and processes in place to advise and define the broad technical design which outlines the key architecture components for the enterprise solution. The solution architect is the connection across all key business stakeholders and platform engineering teams of the project.

The solution architect is equipped with a deep technical knowledge in a specific CRM capability area, while maintaining a broader understanding of the full CRM technology stack. They lead the domain architects by maintaining a detailed understanding of the current -and future- state architecture. This makes them an asset when supporting conversations with key product owners to successfully facilitate design decisions, change management processes, and sequenced milestone planning. The solution architect provides an ongoing comprehensive view into how systems are or need to be integrated, what data silos are present and recommends technology best practices throughout the entirety of the project.

Why you need a solution architect on the team

Here are some lessons learned from prior complex martech implementation projects that prove the importance of having a dedicated solution architect on the project team is essential.

Projects that were not supported by a dedicated Solution Architect experienced critical challenges with:

1. Teams speak and operate in silos

2. Key project stakeholders struggle to align on key design decisions

3. The complete integrated view of the solution best practices that are missing

4. Project managers and scrum masters struggle to plan sequences of work, prioritize development plans, and outline critical dependencies

5. Product owners struggle to assess risk impact to potential design options, and to prioritize use cases effectively

Whereas projects that were supported by a dedicated solution architect reaped these key benefits that not only lead to overall project success, but also helped drive accuracy and efficiency in the delivery of key project milestones:

1. Elements of complexity are overcome through facilitated working sessions with key stakeholders led by the Solution Architect.  

2. Presentation materials drive decision making, outlining potential solution and weighing pro and/cons of each.

3. Future-state data flows and integration plans are established.

4. A sequenced plan of all major milestones is established in partnership with project management teams.

5. The enterprise vision is converted into detailed user experience stories and tied to technology and data recommendations that were carried out by the platform architects and engineering teams successfully.

The solution architect is the leading player in any complex implementation. They have the most solid understanding of the full CRM tech stack and how best to implement it.