Software Architect: What Do They Do? Everything You Need To Know About

Nowadays, IT jobs are listed as those high-demanded jobs for the future. Among other IT jobs, a software architect is one of the highest-paid jobs in 2022, which can make almost $170,026 per year in the U.S areas (this does not include bonuses, commissions, profit for sharing, etc.), according to Glassdoor

Full-stack developers, security specialists, data scientists, and other sought-after IT professionals are left behind by software architects. In this article, we will find out why software architects command a better salary than other IT jobs and what value they can add to your team. 

What does a software architect do?

Among numerous definitions of software architect (a.k.a technical architect), generally, a person who makes the majority of critical decisions about the design of a software system is considered a software architect.

As a software architect, you are responsible for:

  • Defining the software design principles of the project;
  • Creating a high-level design of a software system and its components as well as establishing the ways these components interact with each other and with other external applications; 
  • Creating an overall technical guide that defines the technologies stack, tools, and standards which acts as a fundamental point for the shared understanding of the development process. 
  • Address important aspects such as functionality, resilience, performance, reusability, trade-offs, scalability, comprehensibility, technology limitations, and security. Moreover, as a software architect, your job is to ensure that the stakeholders and technical staff are well-informed about your decisions by communicating effectively with them. 

Although the specific function of software architects relies on the size and requirements of the project, it is crucial to have an understanding of the differences between their role and other key specialists who work on the same software solution and towards a similar objective  - that is to create a high-performance & successful product.

Necessary skills and competencies required of a software architect

Software architects usually possess deep and comprehensive expertise in order to perform tasks that are more complex than others in the same project. Therefore, it is no wonder that most of them used to work in high-level technical positions before becoming software architects. Moreover, a software architect is required to be able to work with not only machines but also with people. The list below shows the key characteristics of a well-qualified software architect. 

  • Technical-intensive background. It is a requirement for an architect to have a Master's degree in computing science or engineering program and a portfolio consisting of different projects adapted with different technologies. You must have 5 to 10 years of programming experience in order to become a software architect. 
  • Well-skilled at writing code: Even after becoming a software architect, you must have to keep up to date with programming. They need to give code examples, proofs of concept, and prototypes playing a role as a basis for developers to continue working on those code snippets in order to deliver them to production. It should be noted that the most frequent task of a software architect is coding than finding a solution with high-level concepts or diagrams.  
  • Have proper expertise and insights in cloud technologies: The software development process is accelerated by cloud service providers as they provide a variety of ready-to-use solutions. It does not mean wasting time doing something that was already done well,  software architects need to be an expert in cloud services, and need to know the tools they can use in each case. A software architect can prove their knowledge of cloud technologies by certification in AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud program or/and their years of experience in working with a particular vendor.
  • Good at communication. To be a successful software architect, it is essential to have some communication skills since engaging with stakeholders, software engineers, and business analysts is one of their main tasks. If you want to become a software architect after working as a senior developer, or a tech lead for a while, it is important for you to adopt the ability to convert technical terms into simple language
  • Leadership skills. The job of a software architect is to mentor and coordinate tech teams in order to help them promote their solution vision and quality standards. Having solid leadership skills can help you to earn respect and authority from your subordinates. 
  • Knowledge related to a specific business domain. Not having a deep understanding of a specific domain would be challenging to create an architecture that can handle business problems in a more effective way. Having a thorough understanding of the domain specificity allows software architects not only to select the most suitable approaches and patterns but also to use the same language as C-level executives and business representatives. As a result, this helps software architects build trust. 

How can a software architect fit into the organizational structure?

Software architect vs senior developer

It is a common phenomenon for people to think of a software architect as a super-senior developer, however, in reality, a software architect needs to be a visionary who designs a solution blueprint based on the requirements of customers and the available technologies. When putting the blueprint into practice, a software architect needs to apply knowledge and skills related to vast programming.

Architects also write codes like other software developers, but their primary task is to enforce standards for software engineers in order to ensure these factors such as scalability, performance, and security will not be left out at the early stage. Moreover, software architects do not only do programming but their tasks also revolve around humans. 

Software architect vs technical manager

The technology manager plays a role in overseeing engineers in order to ensure that the product built by the engineers follows the vision of the software architect. As a tech lead, you should focus on tactics while driving improvements in the teamwork and development process. But if you are a software architect, your job is to concentrate on the strategy, not just for the next vision, but for the entire product. 

However, in companies with a smaller scale, a person often handles both roles, tracking the big picture while managing a specific release. 

A software architect compared to other architects

Due to the business growth of the company, new IT architect roles must be introduced with various visions and responsibilities.

The job of a data or information architect is to define how data is collected, stored, managed, integrated, and exchanged among IT systems and the applications that use them in some way. 

The technical infrastructure and processes of all units, projects, and departments from the business perspective are overseen by an enterprise architect (aka corporate architect). A corporate architect is responsible for ensuring that an organization's systems architecture supports the business strategy and assists in reaching its business goals. The typical corporate architect's job is to report directly to the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) or the CIO (Chief Information Officer) of the company.

The main focus of a solution architect is how a specific software product can meet particular business needs. This position is generally sought in specialized areas where technical experts are looking for industry-specific functional guidance. As a solution architect, you need to have knowledge of business analysis, system architecture, and project management. 

The main task of a technical or software architect is focusing on a specific project from the development stage, to implementation, maintenance, support, and further advancement. To sum up, a software architect needs to oversee the whole aspects of software engineering and programming, not financial or organizational aspects. The responsibilities of a software architect will be examined in more detail below

To sum up: Does your business really need a software architect?

When do you need a software architect? Architects are typically leveraged for large projects that require the coordination of many technical teams, such as front-end, back-end, or DevOps teams. Another example is a team working on very specific and complex business industry. In such a context, architects are needed to convert business language into technical terms and the other way around and deal with communication problems that might occur during the software development process as well. 

Nevertheless, there is no need for an architect to achieve success in establishing standard projects, such as a static website or "another content management system (CMS)". Moreover, it does not require having a software architect in small teams that are working on technical projects on a smaller scale.