The benefits of solution architecture
Now that we have detailed the importance of solution architecture, we will now provide more details on the benefits of solution architecture in various aspects of an organization; Figure 1.2 is a breakdown of the potential benefits bestowed upon an organization when employing the role of solution architect in the business.
Figure 1.2: A solution architecture's beneficial attributes
- Technology values and requirements: Solution architecture determines the ROI, which solution can be obtained by a particular technology selection, and the market trends. The solution architect evaluates which technology an organization or project should adopt in order to achieve long-term sustainability, maintainability, and team comfort.
- Business goal: The primary responsibility of a solution architecture design is to accommodate the needs of the stakeholders and adapt it to their requirements. Solution architecture converts business goals into a technical vision by analyzing market trends and implementing best practices. Solution architecture needs to be flexible enough to meet new, challenging, demanding, and rapidly changing business requirements.
- Target dates: A solution architect continuously works with all stakeholders, including the business team, customers, and the development team. A solution architect defines the process standard and provides guidelines for solution development. They make sure that the overall solution is in alignment with the business objective and launch timeline, to ensure minimal chances of target date slippage.
- Increased ROI: Solution architecture determines the ROI and helps to measure the success of the project. Solution architecture forces a business to think about how to reduce costs and remove process wastage by applying automation in order to improve the overall ROI.
- Market opportunity: Solution architecture involves the process of analyzing and continuously evaluating the latest trends in the market. It also helps with backing up and promoting new products.
- Budget and resourcing: For a better budget, it is always recommended to invest well in estimation. A well-defined solution architecture helps us to understand the amount of resources that are required for project completion. This helps in the formulation of better budget forecasting and resource planning.
- Project timeline: Defining an accurate project timeline is critical for solution implementation. A solution architect determines the resources and effort that will be required during the design phase, which should help define the schedule.
Now you have had a high-level overview of solution architecture and its benefits, Let's investigate more closely the everyday aspects of solution architecture.
Addressing the business needs and quality of delivery
In the life cycle of product development, the most challenging phase is to establish the nature of the requirements, especially when multiple elements are competing to be addressed as high priority and are evolving rapidly. This is even more challenging when there are different views of the same requirement from various stakeholders. For example, a business user analyzes the page design from a user point of view, while a developer is looking at it from the perspective of implementation feasibility and load latency. This can cause conflicts and misunderstandings of the requirements between functional and technical members. In such cases, solution architecture helps to bridge the gap and define a standard that all members can understand.
Functional requirements are product features to accommodate user requirements and address the primary need of a given business problem. When users interact with software applications, they interact with functional requirements directly. For example, in an e-commerce application, examples of functional requirements are that users see their order history, search for merchandise, add them into the cart, and make payment using their preferred payment method. While the primary responsibility for the collection of functional requirements resides with the product owner, a solution architect makes sure of their design and implementation in such a way that it can scale as per user demand and accommodate any future extension.
Solution architecture defines standard documentation that explains the technical aspects to non-technical stakeholders and updates them regularly. As a solution architecture's design spans across the organization and different teams, it can help to discover hidden requirements. The solution architect makes sure that the development team knows about the requirements, and also maintains the cycle of progress.
A good solution architecture defines not only the solution design but also the success criteria in the form of qualitative and quantitative output, in order to ensure the quality of delivery. The qualitative output can be collected from user feedback, such as through sentiment analysis, while quantitative output may include latency, performance, load time on the technical side, and sales numbers on the business side. Taking continuous feedback and adapting to it is the key to high-quality delivery, which should adhere to all the phases of solution design and development.
Selecting the best technology platform
In a rapid and competitive market, the biggest challenge is maintaining the use of the best technologies. Today, when you have multiple resources all around the world, a specific technology should be chosen very carefully. The solution is the architecture design process, which can effectively tackle this problem.
The selection of the technology stack plays a significant role in efficient solution implementation by the team. In solution architecture, we should use different strategies to adopt various platforms, technologies, and tools. A solution architect should validate all of the needs carefully, and then evaluate and investigate the result using multiple parameters in order to find the best-fit solution for the product development by creating a working model of the product in the form of a prototype.
Good solution architecture addresses the depth of different tools and technologies by investigating all possible architectural strategies, based on the mixed use case, techniques, tools, and code reuse, which come as part of years of experience. The best platform simplifies the implementation process; however, the right technology selection is critical. This can be achieved by building a prototype according to the business requirement assessment, and the agility, speed, and security of the application.
Addressing solution constraints and issues
Any solution can be limited by various constraints and may encounter issues due to further complexities or unforeseen risks. Solution architecture needs to balance multiple constraints, such as resources, technologies, cost, quality, time to market, and frequently changing requirements.
Each project has its own specific goal, requirement, budget, and timeline. Solution architecture evaluates all of the possible critical paths and shares best practices to achieve a project goal in a given timeframe and budget. This is a systematic approach, where all tasks are interdependent of prior tasks; in order to achieve success in the project, all tasks need to be executed in sequence. A delay in one task can impact the project timeline and can result in the organization missing the market window to launch the product.
If there is an issue in the project development process, the probability of a project getting delayed is high. Sometimes, you encounter problems that are limitations of the adopted technology, or even of the solution environment. If you have a well-thought-out solution architecture, the most common issues are related to the non-functional requirements: resources and budgeting can mitigate problems encountered in the product development life cycle.
A solution architect helps to drive the project by diving deep into each component of it. They think of an out-of-the-box idea to save the project from unforeseen issues, such as those covered in disaster recovery, and will prepare a backup plan in the event that things do not work out with the main one. They evaluate the best possible way to execute the project by choosing the best practice and balancing constraints.
Helping in resource and cost management
There are always risks and uncertainties involved during solution implementation; it can become very tedious should a developer need to spend time on fixing a bug, for example. A good solution architecture controls the cost and budget and reduces uncertainty by providing developers with the required guidance in terms of priority, different communication services, and the details of each component.
Solution architecture also creates documentation that will be used to keep the system up to date, along with a deployment diagram, software patches, and a software release version, and enforces the runbook to tackle frequent issues and business continuation processes. It also addresses the indirect impacts of the cost of building a solution by considering extensibility, scalability, and other external factors that matter to the development environment.
Managing solution delivery and project life cycle
Lots of planning is involved in the inception stage of solution architecture. Solution architecture starts with a strategic view and provides more technical implementation input as you move forward with the solution implementation.
Solution architecture ensures an end-to-end solution delivery and impacts the overall project life cycle. It defines a process standard for different phases of the project life cycle and makes sure that it is applied across the organization so that other dependencies can be addressed as the implementation moves forward.
Solution architecture considers a holistic view of the project. It keeps syncing other dependent groups, such as security, compliance, infrastructure, project management, and support, in order to keep them engaged in different phases of the project life cycle as required.
Addressing non-functional requirements
Often, a solution architect has to deal with the non-functional requirements (NFRs) in an application. For project success, it is essential to address them, as they have a broader impact on the overall project and solution. These NFRs can make or break your user base, and address critical aspects of a solution, such as security, availability, latency concerns, maintenance, logging, masking confidential information, performance concerns, reliability, maintainability, scalability, and usability. If these are not considered on time, it can impact your project delivery. Figure 1.3 shows some of the most common NFRs.
Figure 1.3: Non-functional attributes of solution architecture
- Disaster recovery: To make sure the solution is up and running in case of any unforeseen events.
- Security and compliance: Put a safety net in place for a solution to save it from an external attack, such as a virus, malware, and so on. Also make sure that the solution complies with local and industry laws by meeting compliance requirements.
- High availability: To make sure the solution is always up and running.
- Scalability: To make sure the solution can handle the additional load in case of increasing demands.
- Application performance: To make sure the application is loading as per user expectation, and without much delay.
- Network request and response latency: Any activity performed on the application should be completed within an appropriate time, and should not be allowed to time out.
You will learn more details of the preceding attributes in Chapter 3, Attributes of the Solution Architecture. The solution architecture defines an initial framework for product development and the building blocks of the solution. While establishing a solution architecture, quality and customer satisfaction are always the main focus. Solution architecture needs to be built continuously by working on a proof of concept and exploring and testing until the desired quality is reached.