As SaaS-based solutions become more prevalent, the traditional solution architect’s role—articulating and delivering solution designs—is becoming obsolete. Many ancillary tasks that go with this core skill, such as platform sizing and effort estimation, will also fade away as SaaS takes hold.
So do these developments mean that architects no longer add value to software solutions?
As an architect who loves his job and wants to stay employed, I’m glad to report that the answer is a resounding “No!”
Just as so many other jobs have evolved and adapted to the application economy, solution architects need to bring their other skills to the forefront. From my perspective, it’s a simple case of doing more of the activities we had to sacrifice when we were so busy designing solutions. But here’s the real revelation (and the good news for architects and clients alike): These other activities are just as essential to solution success as good design, and we should find time for them even in non-SaaS implementations.
I would hazard a guess that everyone reading this post has lived through a situation in which a carefully designed solution loses value over time due to poor adoption. Who better than an architect, who knows a given solution inside and out, to add value to the team using the solution through training, troubleshooting and management? Architects have seen some organizations fail and others succeed, and they can share best practices with your organization to make sure it falls squarely in the latter group.
SaaS solutions are not dogged by implementation complexity and long delivery times; they usually are evaluated and pressed into production almost immediately. As a result, customers may not have run through their budget. Wise customers don’t funnel all of the remaining funds to another initiative; instead, they apportion part of it to keep an architect on to assist with rollout and adoption. This is where the solution architect can really add value at little cost.
You may be saying, “This still requires the architect to work side by side with the customer on configuration, people and process as we have always done.” But consider this: Most customer user groups are distributed, so the architect needn’t be on site, which of course saves travel costs.
Working remotely, architects can live with customers’ solutions on a daily basis, using the plethora of communications tools available to us. We can be part of their team—when they need us—and use our wealth of experience to progress them on their solution journey. Just as a SaaS solution offers a subscription service for software, the architect can offer a subscription service for his/her experience. This is a much more fluid, effective model for our journey with the customer than ad hoc, infrequent visits with them when they are stuck on an issue. We can be with the customer every step of the way to ensure that their success is maximised.
As SaaS becomes the norm and customer knowledge declines due to redirection of resources to on-premise solutions, the architect is the front line in ensuring that customers have continued success with SaaS solutions.