Enterprise Architect vs Solution Architect

What exactly is an Enterprise Architect versus a Solution Architect? I'd like to chat about the difference because I'm not confident everyone understands this well.

It's actually quite simple. I propose that a Solution Architect is a project team role that is responsible for the system quality of the solution being delivered to the business. I also propose that an Enterprise Architect is a planning role that is responsible for identifying the future state of an organization's IT environment and engage wherever and whomever necessary to help guide project team's to deliver toward it. There are formal definitions out there but I thought I'd simplify it for the purposes of this blog post.

I get the impression there are people out there that think an Enterprise Architect is a Solution Architect but work in enterprise organizations. I also have the impression that there are people out there that think an Enterprise Architect is someone who only works with Powerpoint, collects information from Solution Architects and spends the majority of their time with the business leads and governance boards merely reporting on the information they've pulled together. Although I recognize that there are organizations in situations that implement Enterprise Architect and Solution Architect like this, I beleive they are inneficient and are likely in a transition state to the more efficient role definitions I proposed earlier.

Taking my proposed definitions, I'd like to identify architect subtypes to help support the difference between them to help describe what I'm talking about.

A Solution Architect may have a number of different types of architects working for him/her to help accomplish their task for delivering a high quality solution. For example, s/he might have an Infrastructure Architect to manage the architecture of the solution's hardware configuration so that the solution meets the Quality of Service business and IT requirements while at the same time represents the optimum way to deploy the solution into the target production environments.

There also might be a need for 'specialist' architects depending on the complexities of the business requirements or the target production environment. Such 'specialist' architects usually are called Domain Architects and examples include; Security Architect, Technology Architect (ie architects that specialize in a specific product or technology), Vertical Architects (ie architects that specialize in systems that are specialized in particular industry verticals such as Financial Services Industry, Telecommunicaitons, Public Sector, etc).

An Enterprise Architect may have also have a number of different types of architects in order to piece together a coherent, actionable future state architecture which can easily map to business strategy, be consumed by project teams and be a major contribution in governance activities.

For example, an Enterprise Architect may have Business Architects which document Business Strategies, Program and Project Portfolios, Business Processes and Roles as well as a number of other artifacts to help analyze them such as mapping artifacts (see here).

An Enterprise Architect may also have Information Architects who document the information models such as Data Subject Areas, Data Facets, Business Objects, Business Entities and Data Entities with the intention of supporting the Business Processes while at the same time desiging for data integrity and data quality for the enterprise.

An Enterprise Architect may also have Infrastructure Architects (aka Technology Architects) that focus on the hardware and operating system-level infrastructure.

Lastly, an Enterprise Architect may also have Solution Architects (aka Enterprise Solution Architects and Enterprise Application Architects) who focus on pulling all of the other Enterprise Architecture information together to shape the future state application system architecture.

Here is one place where I think there is confusion by many. You see, I described a Solution Architect at the project-level and an Enterprise Solution Architect across the enterprise and both share the words 'Solution Architect' in their role. They have VERY different purposes but are very complimentary. Could it be that simple of a reason why confustion exists? It just might be.

An Enterprise Solution Architect and project Solution Architect roles are very complimentary and because this relationship is of particular interest to me I'd like to take a moment and propose how they are to work together.

 I propose that the Enterprise Solution Architect be involved at the earliest point a new business initiative is created and do very high-level 'solutioning' via whiteboard and reference to future state architecture elements. Then, when the business initiative gains momentum and is backed by Enterprise Architecture future state concepts, the core project team is formed and the project Solution Architect takes over to be responsible for the solution. The Enterprise Solution Architect becomes a member of the project Solution Architects team and is responsible for the system integration architecture where the solution requires integration between enterprise systems as well as be responsible to provide future state system architecture guidance to help the project Solution Architect make decisions on which systems to commit to using in the solution. The Enterprise Solution Architect then is involved in governance boards to inform decision-makers with future-state architecture artifacts to help justify major technology, system, or business value decisions. Thats it.

As a quick summary, project Solution Architects and Enterprise Architects are different in that they have very different purposes. They are highly complimentary in that Solution Architects focus on delivery of solutions and Enterprise Architects focus on supporting them by documenting future state, participating on their teams and being involved in governance activities.

Comments (20)
  1. Recently, Mike Walker posted a blog entry on the difference between Enterprise Architect and Solution

  2. Steve says:

    Enterprise Architecture does not only involve IT architecture – it cover IS arhitecture and Business architecture also i.e. Enteprise architecture is a strategic role that plans the end state of the entire enterprise and the roadmpa for attaining this across: Business Architecture (Value Chain, Revenue model, Service Delivery model, operating model, enterprise process model, information model), Information Systems Architecture (Data model, Application model, interop/integration and services models) and technology architecture (infrastructure – SW, HW, connectivity and security). A solution architect drives the delivery of a particualr piece of this in the form of a project – seeing it is about business solutions the solutions architect must be able to work in both information, process and IS and IT areas.

  3. Raj Chanian says:

    Solution(s) Architects are responsible for delivering the right solution. Enterprise Architects enforce governance across the Enterprise Solutions Landscape and ensure that the solutions are done right.

    For my recent solution, I had a Service Architect to report to me for the ITIL solution, and the Technical Architect report to me for the Infrastructure solution, Business Architect to report to me for the functional solution and the Applications Architects report to me for their respective Applications solutions. I had overall responsible for the full solution lifecycle as a solution architect.

    This can be taken further whereby Solution Architects are accountable to the Enterprise Architect who ensures that the solutions dovetail into the strategic roadmap/policy…

  4. I strongly believe that Leadership is a critical competency for successful Enterprise Solution Architects

  5. Ellis Benjamin says:

    EA is a change agent who who identifies and baselines the ‘as is’ and formulates the strategies and high-level change projects to position the where we want ‘to be’.

    The SA designs the solution architecture to host the ‘to be’ state.

  6. DC says:

    Well explained chaps.

    So the big Q perhaps is, who earns more? and how significan is the pay difference?

  7. Alan says:

    I think EA’s define a high-level, business aligned architecture that will eventually deliver programmes that align with business objectives.

    SA’s deliver an architecture specific to a narrowly focussed part of the overall business objective for example, operating systems, collaborative systems.

    The architects have technical teams that actually implement the systems that the architects design. (Preferrably the architects come from a technical background!)

  8. Venkatesh Balakumar says:

    Nice, can we say that Enterprise Architect designs and creates a safe playground and solutions architects play all the games that can be played within the ground?




  9. Architect says:

    So what is the best way to becoming an EA from a Solution/Infrastructure Architect?? Is to undertake other roles such as Information Architect, Business Architect or simply working alongside them and undertaking relevant traning courses should enable a budding EA to get some insight into the other areas which form an overal Enterprise Architecture.

  10. real ARCHITECT says:

    In searching for jobs in Architecture the System IT jobs come up, you need to redefine Architect and Architecture as an ART or in the Construction Field and move all the IT jobs out of "Architect" Key words. I went through a long exhaustive effort to earn the title ARCHITECT and unfortunately all the IT computer postings are using the term liberally. I am licensed ARCHITECT. I have earned the right to practice my profession and I hope you organization will acknowledge, as my colleges and society does, that my knowledge was acquired though rigorous education, training, internships, tested in comprehensive exams and certified by licensure. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


  11. @ the REAL ARCHITECT,

    I hear ya. I don't know if you've ready this other blog but I agree that comparing IT Architects roles to Building Architect roles is a very slippery slope. Anyway, it's probably worth reading so you are aware that us IT folk are cognizant of the formalities you went through to be a registered architect. I hope someday, IT Architecture can mature as Building Architecture has. It'll take quite a bit of time and some very compelling events to get us there.


  12. another REAL architect says:

    To a REAL architect, beleive me I sympathize with your grip of the IT industry essentially hijacking the title "architect" and with your plight of doing a job search and having to decipher all the tech/geek speak to weed out the real architect postings. Ironically the author of this blog, the "IT/solution/enterprise architect" is married to me, a "REAL buidling/design Architect" and for the last 15 years I have continually called BS on his

    industry's use of our title. He fortunately understands that the core difference in our two industries is that building architecture/construction has evolved and matured to where it is today because our profession deals with public health and safety. And therein lies the reason why we will always be superior. 🙂

  13. Alex says:

    Not sure if you care, but someone is definitely plagiarizing your work: vikaskumar9.blogspot.com/…/enterprise-architect-vs-solution.html

  14. tarek says:

    so what is a technical architect and how is it different then both?

  15. @ terek,

    Thanks for taking the time to read and share your comments.

    I hear the use of the term Technical Architect quite a bit and the definitions vary. Before I try to compare the two in this blog, could you please let me know what definition you are thinking of?

    For example, one of the more common definition I hear about stems from Gartner and TOGAF references which boil down to something like "The archtiect accountable for the architecture domain defined by hardware, software and network infrastructure". If this is what you mean, I think the Technical Architect is a synergistic role that aligns to the Solution Architect and Enterprise Architect roles and be accountable for ensuring a healthy infrastructure. Therefore, from a project team perspective, a Technical Architect would collaboratively work with the Solution Architect role to construct the infrastructure of a solution including things such as network communications design (think network trunking, comm protocols, and supplier assessment guides), network availability design (think hardware and hardward configuration specs to meet load requirements), etc.

  16. Taranath Chebrolu says:

    Enterprise Architecture is a 4 dimensional model. Those are Business Process, Information, Application and Technical architecture to support business strategies

  17. @Taranath

    I like the simplicity of the sets of dimensions you listed as it reminds of the classic BAIT model that seems to withstand a lot of new shifts in EA thinking. Having said that, the classic EA constructs produced (eg Zachman, BAIT, FEAF, etc) seem to miss the ability to capture "the business". That is, they're strengths lie in helping describe IT but not the business part of the company. I'm curious how you  would you fit sub-constructs like Business Strategy (aka Vision Statements, Strategy Maps, Scorecards) and Business Model (ie Alex Osterwalder's Business Model Canvas)?

  18. Matt Kern CEA(FEAF) CEA(DODAF) MSEA says:

    Not bad.  See the broad and narrow meaning of EA in this paper, agrees with the article here largely.


  19. Anthony Meyer says:

    Overall, I liked this post. Well done.

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