Certification Path for Solutions Architects


What Is a Solutions Architect (SA)?

In my experience, Solutions Architect is a job title applied to one of these two roles:

  1. A developer who has been with the company a long time and knows the digital systems inside and out, backwards and forwards. They know who controls the most important systems and who to nudge when something need to get through the bureaucracy. They know where the bottlenecks are, which dependencies are crucial, and which systems are troublesome and risky. Their knowledge is valuable to the company so, over time, their seniority is recognized with new job titles: perhaps they started as a Developer, then Senior Developer, then Technical Team Lead, and so on, eventually becoming Solutions Architect.

    They’re usually close to or within the delivery teams. But they rarely have time to write code. If they still write code it’s during their spare time. Their responsibilies as SA are time consuming — because helping the organization figure out how to build new behaviours into their digital systems amidst technological chaos complexity_!_ is a full time job.

    I have great respect for these individuals and I wish to help them facilitate the principles and practices of incremental and emergent architecture.

  2. The other role, for which I often see the SA monicker, is actually a marketing and sales position. For example, every cloud provider educates Solutions Architect to explain how their product “solution”! is the silver bullet you need to wrangle your technological chaos.

    This recent Salesforce job advertisement exemplifies the role (edited for brevity):

    Solutions Architects (SAs) (a.k.a. “Success Architects!”) are core members of our Customer Success Team, providing Enterprise Architecture Thought Leadership, Technology Strategy…They triage customer assistance requests and lead corresponding engagements that increase Salesforce adoption…support add-on Sales and Services growth, and minimize attrition risk. They closely collaborate with a team of SAs and Success Managers…SAs also create C-Level relationships with our most strategic customers…

    You can clearly see the role is evangelical by design. They are not impartial. Their goal is not to provide their client the best possible architectural guidance; their goals are to “increase Salesforce adoption”, “add-on Sales”, “growth”, “minimize attrition”, and “create C-Level relationships”. I have great respect for these individuals, they do important work for their employers — but these are not the Solutions Architects I’m advising in this article.

The certification path below would be valuable to Solutions Architects first by providing a crash-course in iterative & incremental product development with self-organizing teams (APS: Applying Professional Scrum). Then, a refresher course for Agile engineering practices featuring emergent/incremental architecture (PSD, PSU, and Spec by Example). And as most Solutions Architects interact with multiple teams, it is helpful to enhance their hard-skills and soft-skills for multi-team environments _(SPS, PSU, PSK, PAL-E, and Wardley Mapping).

Learning Path for Solutions Architects

Certifications for Solutions Architects Explained

Core Scrum.org Courses

Core courses I recommend for Solutions Architects are illustrated above along the main horizontal path (left to right).

APS: Applying Professional Scrum

This training course (which is an alternate path to PSM I certification) is a hands-on, product development simulation. People describe it as “a profound experience” and it serves well to help people understand real Scrum.

PSD: Professional Scrum Developer

A training course (with a parallel certification) which covers things like:

  • foundational programming concepts;
  • Scrum with Agile engineering and DevOps practices;
  • vertical slicing.
  • and emergent architecture.
SPS: Scaled Professional Scrum

A training course (with a parallel certification) which covers things like:

  • Product development with multiple Scrum teams;
  • maintaining high levels of transparency and technological/architectural cohesion in a multi-team environment.
PAL-E: Professional Agile Leadership Essentials

For SA roles, this training course (with an accompanying certification: PAL I) would help to:

  • participate in self-organizing teams;
  • develop practical skills to guide and coach others to participate in self-organizing teams;
  • assess the efficacy of architects’ practices (across the development organization) in light of iterative & incremental development.

Related courses are illustrated below the main horizontal path.

PSU: Professional Scrum with User Experience

A training course (with a parallel certification) which covers things like:

  • design thinking in light of frequent delivery;
  • design systems and how they can map to software engineering design patterns;
  • emergent design of UI is a counterpart to emergent architecture — empathy among designers and architects enhances team cohesion.
PSK: Professional Scrum with Kanban

A training course (with a parallel certification) which covers things like:

  • skills-fluidity across shared services or within self-organizing teams;
  • how to balance demand and capacity in light of knowledge work;
  • how to improve workflow in light of customer-service and operational demands;
  • how to adapt Scrum when “keeping the lights on” appears to contradict Scrum’s insistence upon making ‘done’ product every Sprint.

Recommended courses through other organizations (not Scrum.org) are illustrated above the main horizontal path.

Specification by Example

(Self-study or pursue master classes with Gojko Adžić, or his students.) This material would help a Solutions Architect to:

  • assess the efficacy of current practices (across the development organization) in light of managing requirements of significant complexity;
  • explore an alternate sense-making approach (alternate to the common practices of typical architecture disciplines) to envision abstractions or novel ideas/concepts by way of boundary stories, examples, and tests;
  • communicate, with ubiquitous language, between business stakeholders, designers, and engineers.
Wardley Mapping

(Self-study or pursue master classes with Simon Wardley, or his students.) This material would help a Solutions Architect to:

  • minimize duplication of architectural components across multiple systems;
  • identify opportunities for architectural consolidation in case of business acquisition and merger.

All About Certification — A Blog Series: Table of Contents

This article is one part in a series I started in 2019 to address questions that I frequently receive about training courses and certifications.

Connect With Me

Please let me know if you’d like more articles on this topic in future.

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