Software Architect vs Software Engineer: Who Wins?

By Ryan Vice | Posted on August 6, 2020


When you hire a team of developers to build your custom software, app, feature or other tech solution, you may be surprised to learn that there are several different kinds of software developers. There are also many different names for someone performing essentially the same function. Two key players are software engineers and architects. They may have a lot in common in terms of capabilities, but some key differences separate them. 

Software architects are primarily responsible for leading a software project. They identify the issue or problem, design and implement a concept that will address the problem, and then they help to enhance and maintain the application once it’s been launched. They are present for the entire lifecycle of a project. They operate at the highest level a project, roadmapping and deciding technical direction. This does not mean that architects should work in a silo foregoing input from other team members; in fact, they should have close partnerships with software engineers during a project.

Software engineers concern themselves with the development process including the design, development, maintenance, testing, evaluation and maintenance. Architects may develop the high-level plans for a project, but engineers apply programming principles to an application’s actual creation. They also help architects by providing actionable feedback that improves their plans by balancing technical considerations such as code or tool selection with practical business values such as time-to-launch, scalability and reliability. 

On the surface, though, they are both united in shaping a vision of software that meets the needs of the client. Because the people in these roles shouldn’t be adversarial. It’s not a software architect vs software engineer situation. When a team is built on active, collaborative relationships, not only is the work environment more fun and productive, but the end result is more likely to meet expectations and satisfy your clients. 

Software Architect vs Software Engineer: Building Strong Relationships

There are several factors that lend to a healthy team structure between software architects and software engineers. 

Pro-Question Environment

In a collaborative team, there should be a sense that no one is afraid to speak up and voice their questions. This is especially true when architects are laying out their plans, and engineers may have a more practical, easier solution than something an architect suggested. The client could be dead set on hosting with AWS, but one of your engineers believes it makes more sense from a business standpoint to host with Azure, this is information an architect needs to know. 

Asking questions is also helpful in ensuring everyone has clarity on the process moving forward. It’s smart for architects to ask questions such as “what part of the roadmap are you unsure about?” or “is there anything you would change?”. Engineers should ask questions even if they think they already know the answers, and architects should be ready to answer them. They could also repeat back what they understand. The result is an open exchange of information between all stakeholders. 

Open Lines of Communication

Along with a pro-question mindset, architects and engineers should foster open communication channels both between themselves and with clients. Not only should thought processes be explained instead of assumed, but regular check-ins are a must. It’s helpful to keep all stakeholders up to date on progress, obstacles, new features and whatever else is going on. That way, everyone can do their jobs better and support can be provided when needed, preventing projects from going off course and over budget. 

When you put software architect vs. software engineer, then tend to butt heads and communication is compromised. When engineers feel that architects are coming down from their ivory towers to talk to their plebeian underlings, it really stymies collaboration. When issues arise with design or development, they may not be solved quickly or effectively, costing clients time and money. 


Question: what is the ideal software development team? Answer: one in which architects, engineers and other stakeholders have the experience necessary to understand and collaborate with each other. It’s incredibly beneficial for architects to have an understanding of what engineers do on a daily basis, just as it’s beneficial for engineers to understand the high-level problem solving architects are required to do. You’ll be able to see the advantages of a cross-functional team in practice when everyone from QA testers to designers to backend developers are able to freely offer democratic input on a project. 

Practical, Flexible Processes

No project will ever be as straightforward and painless as either the architect or engineers want it to be, and without strong relationships, the processes you’ve implemented can only be so successful at moving work forward. Shifting business requirements and development constraints call for constant collaboration, but when architects and engineers work together, you’ll find the adoption of practical and flexible processes much easier. 

Developers, after all, appreciate freedom. When architects have trust and confidence in their team, they’ll be able to champion the processes that serve them. 

A United Front

At the end of the day, the biggest factor for a productive development team is goal-setting. As long as everyone has the same goals, everyone will be working with the same outcome in mind: to develop quality software that fulfills the needs and requirements of their client. If architects and engineers can begin every project with clear goals in place, then the likelihood of conflict and miscommunication can be mitigated.

It’s Not Software Architect vs Software Engineer

Finding the right team for your software project is not an easy task. Not only do they need to have the skills and knowledge you require, they also need to share your values and show a commitment to their clients. Thankfully, you can tell a lot about developers by how they work with each other. When they understand the importance of a healthy team dynamic and collaborative partnerships amongst themselves, you can be more confident in their work ethic and ultimate success. 

At Vice Software, we do not subscribe to the software architect vs software engineer mentality. Even with our team split between two continents, we maintain close, productive relationships, not only within our team roles but with external stakeholders, as well. Through dedicated slack channels, daily stand ups, weekly demos and open lines of communication, we don’t just believe in collaboration between the project architect and engineers, we highly encourage it. 

We combine our commitment to visibility with lean development methodologies to create high value solutions that meet expectations every time. To get started building something amazing with us, all you have to is request a quote today.

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