I’d like to talk about another idea I have for improving system architecture which is growing Solution Architects. I believe that one of the primary value propositions of an architect is to mentor and transfer knowledge from their architecture experience to the less experienced. I’ve observed that self-proclaimed architects tend to pull from their background such as software/hardware/mechanical engineering, business analysis, packaged software implementers/configurators, even project management! Not too surprisingly there is a significant bias to what these individuals feel are required skills for Solution Architect. I’m not all that confident that there is a right and wrong skills set for the generic Solution Architect, but I wonder if there is a set of core skills that an architect should obtain before acquiring the title Solution Architect to mitigate poor solutions as well as confusion from those around him/her.

I admit, what has triggered this entry is a result of trying to quantify what a Solution Architects is as a result of meeting countless imposters and witnessing their countless system design blunders. It appears that there is no accepted, industry-wide standard skill set that a Solution Architect must have and I see this as a need that must be filled…so I’ll invent one. Here is an approach a fellow colleague and I have come up with which I’d like to throw out to see if it might be interesting to the Architect Community.

The Approach: I used to perform skills assessments while a technical consultant to measure an individual’s skills for a particular project. The result of the skills assessment was a gap analysis which I would use to contribute to a Readiness Plan that would be used to ramp up the technical team for a large project. This approach has worked well for me and mitigated poor system design and solution delivery risks early in the project lifecycle. I’ve taken this concept and applied to produce a development plan for those wanting to become a Solution Architect. The high-level process we’ve come up with to date goes something like this:

1.       Build Skills List for a Solution Architect

2.       Have an experienced Solution Architect assign the maturity an individual would require for each skill such as:

a.       Value    Description

b.      0              0 Non Existent. This skill does not currently exist.

c.       1              1 Weak. This skill exists but not able to work independently without assistance

d.      2              2 Moderate. Good skills exist but requires periodic assistance.

e.      3              3 Strong. Highly capable, this person is often sought after to assist others.

3.       Have an experienced Solution Architect interview a candidate and assign a value based on the same value table above to as accurately as possible determine the candidates ability for each skill in the Skills List

4.       Calculate the skills gap for each skill of the candidate

5.       Stack rank the sills based on the skills gap in descending order

6.       For each skill that requires maturing, have the experienced Solution Architect list prescriptive recommended guidance describing what the candidate should consider for improving that skill

7.       Have the candidate then assign a priority for each skill requiring maturing based on skill gap and the estimated effort to mature the skill

8.       Build the candidate’s development plan using the guidance from the experienced Solution Architect.

I’ve run this approach past a few colleagues and it seems to be intriguing…at least in theory. I think that the trick is identifying the specific skills and their maturity value. Like I noted above, I don’t know if there is a right or wrong skill set but wonder if the skill set should be maintained by a community of architects. I’ve started such a list based on information from the Microsoft Solution Framework, industry research and my experience. Below is a brief outline of the actual skill assessment document and I are building. We have more on this so if you’re interested please let me know. Also, note that the skills are grouped by MSF team role because we think a Solution Architect must have strong skills in every project team role but is an expert in Solution Architecture.

Program/Project Management 

                Scope Management                      

                Requirements Gathering                             

                Acceptance Criteria                        

                Roles and Responsibilities                           

                Communications Management                

                Team Model                     


                Inter-team processes                   

                Trade-off Strategy                          


                Risk management                           

                Progress Tracking                            

                Project Planning                              

Solution Architecture                                                    

                Design Documentation                                 

                                Entity Relationship Diagrams                      

                                Object Oriented Design Patterns                             


                Design Skills                                       

                                Design and Develop for Performance                    

                                Design and Develop for Security                              

                                Design for SOA                 


                                Building Blocks                 


                                Methodologies and Techniques                               

                Quality Attribute Skills                                  

                Business to Technology Strategy                                              

                                Alignment and Investment Strategy                       


                                Industry Concerns                          

                                Business Fundamentals                               

                                                Business Community Organizational Aspects      

                IT Environment                                





                                Project Management Capabilities                            

                Human Dynamics                                            


                                Situational Awareness                  


Product Management                                                  

                Business Analysis                                            

                                Business Process Analysis                           

                                Business Process Execution                        


                Design Documentation                                 

                                Unified Modeling Language                       

                                Entity Relationship Diagrams                      

                                Object Oriented Design Patterns                             


                Test Planning                                    

                Defect Management                                     


                Resource Planning                                          

                Daily Test Process                                           

                Testing Environment                                     

                Function Testing                                              

                Security Testing                                               

                Usability Testing                                              

                Regression Testing                                         

                Performance Testing                                     

                System/Integration Testing                                        

                Build Management                                        

                Unit Testing                                       

                Automation Testing                                       

User Experience                                                              

                Usage Scenarios                                              

                Sequence Modeling                                      

                Business Process Modeling                                        

                Unified Modeling Language                                       

                                Activity Diagrams                            

                                Sequence Diagrams                       

                                Use Case Diagrams                         

                Business Process Analysis and Design                                    

                User Interface Design                                   

Release Management                                                  


                Network Architecture                                   

                Operations Manuals                                      

                Installation Instructions