Software Architecture | What’s the Role Of A Software Architect?

Software architecture holds a contentious reputation among the agile development community. It’s an inapt metaphor for the outcome of architecting software systems. It’s much like the architecture of a building, yet architecting software systems is more dynamic than the building architecture as it’s static and done once. The architecture of a software system is volatile and ever-evolving; if it stops changing, it starts to crumble.

A system with poor architecture can quickly become like an abandoned vehicle – broken and unrepairable. Therefore, the need for a skilled software architect is constitutive for innovation within an organisation that does business with software development, testing, deployment, or related streams. 

In many organisations, senior software developers do certain architectural work like making decisions about handling quality attributes in a system. But that’s not enough to create a system that achieves concrete business goals. The act of architecting requires adequate knowledge of a system to structure useful hypotheses about quality attributes, and the expertise to evaluate the pros/cons, assess the system state, write code and devise tests to evaluate those hypotheses.

To arrive at a better understanding of software architecture, the role of an architect, and when you should hire an architect, we have created this article. 

What is software architecture and why is it important?

Software architecture refers to the fundamental, clear-cut structure of a software system that informs the development and maintenance of software, and its flexibility to expand or adapt to meet future needs. At its core, it organises code and defines patterns and practices for the development crew to successfully manage the bulk volumes of code and complexity involved in the creation and maintenance of a software system. 

Software architecture can be designed, analysed, documented, and implemented to support the achievement of business goals. The system architecture and its documentation serve as training for the developers: how they are supposed to interact when a new team member is introduced and prevent them from making incorrect decisions.

When poorly selected or haphazardly executed, software architecture can hamper the entire production of the software system. Therefore, the behaviour and structure of the software need to be appropriately rendered for the best possible results. A well-thought-out architecture built by Software architecture design tools greatly reduces the chances of bugs in the implementation or flaws in the design that will later impact the development process when the software is used heavily. 

What problems does architecture analysis solve?

In software architecture analysis, the system’s architectural models are evaluated against some criteria as means of quality control, risk reduction, and economic considerations like cost/benefit relations. Architecture analysis is also called architecture evaluation, architecture assessment, and architecture validation and verification which determines whether the architecture design satisfies the requirements of the system as it expands.

Who is a software architect?

The software architect devises all critical decisions about the organisation of the software system. This expert forms a high-level structure of a software system (architecture), its interfaces, main components, and their interactions, and a general architectural vision based on the mutual understanding between all parties involved in the product/system development. That person can distinguish between what is just details and what is important to that internal structure.

What does a software architect do?

A software architect is concerned with the design, development, testing, and release phases of the product by taking care of the high-level picture, not individual parts. This person enforces standards for developers so that scalability, latency, and security won’t be missed at the initial development stage. A software architect analyses if the current development meets the software architecture goals or if there are faults in the design. He then optimises & estimates running/maintenance costs, making sure the software solution is built according to industry best practices and is extendible. Architects have to do a lot of work at the beginning of the product development and then their contribution/engagement falls 10%-15%.

Major responsibilities include:

  • Identifying core needs and designing a high-level, detailed architectural blueprint of the product that solves the customer problem.
  • Gathering early non-functional requirements, selecting a technology stack and deployment methods, and estimating development time.
  • Addressing possible risks and constraints associated with the solution and proving its viability by building a prototype.
  • Communicate ideas clearly with stakeholders and other people involved in product development in case of a problem in the software system.
  • Leading and mentoring the team of senior developers and tech leads through the development process.
  • Writing code examples to set the quality standards
  • Supervising testing and deployment
  • Managing product releases

What’s the difference between a Software Architect and your in-house team?

While the responsibilities of software architects depend on project size and needs, it’s imperative to understand how their role differs from other team members working on the same software to render a successful product.

Software architect vs Senior developerSoftware architect vs Product managerSoftware architect vs Tech leadSoftware architect vs Project manager
A software architect is a visionary, who maps out a blueprint for the solution (how each module will be built and integrated) based on customer requirements, business operations, and technological infrastructure and presents a convincing system to the stakeholders. 
While the senior developer puts the blueprint into practice by choosing a development methodology with the approval of the Project Manager to build the mapped modules and integrate them to develop the whole software product while debugging coding issues.
A software architect makes internal decisions about how the solution works and researches existing technical possibilities. 
Whereas, a  product manager focuses on external factors like demand for a new product, market trends, competitor offerings, and necessity for improvements in the current solution. 
A software architect concentrates on the strategy of the upcoming product release while keeping an eye on the big picture.
Whereas, a technical lead oversees engineers/programmers ensuring the product is built as per the architect’s vision and drives improvements to the development process. 
A software architect is in charge of the code quality and technical risks for the successful delivery of the solution.
Whereas, the project manager undertakes the responsibility of the tasks associated with budget, scope, and time frames ensuring smooth delivery of the solution.

When does the requirement for a software architect arise? Do I really need a skilled software architect?

In the case of developing big or complex software applications with a collaboration of technical teams like frontend, backend, and DevOps, you will need a skilled software architect. This specialist helps translate business goals to technical terms and solve communication issues among stakeholders and other members involved in the product release. As today’s applications encounter new unprecedented technical challenges every day and evolve with time to solve customer problems, a software architect is needed to explore new approaches to ensure the system meets quality attribute goals. Remember that architecting is not a role, it’s a skill that agile teams embody and a software architect works as an extended member of your team for mature software delivery to directly improve your company’s topline. 

If you need to hire a professional and skilled software architect, get in touch with AvoTechs.

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About The Author
Mateusz Skrzyniarz
Mateusz Skrzyniarz
Software Architect & Developer, SAP S/4HANA Consultant

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