Understanding the Role of a Software Engineer Architect

By Ryan Vice | Posted on September 25, 2020

Process

What Is a Software Engineer Architect?

Those outside the tech world may assume the title “software engineer architect” refers to the status of a top-notch coder. This assumption isn’t blatantly untrue; they are expert software developers, but the skill-set required of an architect expands far beyond coding. 

In larger companies, the architect is usually an entirely separate role from software developer, but the roles may overlap in smaller companies with fewer coders. The main difference between architects and developers is the level of abstraction they deal with. The work of software developers tends to be somewhat tangible – they solve problems with code. Architects, however, work primarily in the conceptual realm. They do need to know how to solve problems with code, but the crux of an architect’s role is thinking about software at a higher level. 

Architects consider the software’s overall structure, how it should behave, and how it interacts with other applications. As the title implies, software architects carry many of the same responsibilities of a construction architect: they look at the project as a whole, ensuring every element comes together cohesively.

A Software Engineer Architect Wears Many Hats

Theoretical Design 

Software engineer architects are tasked with managing the big picture: how software should behave and interact with other applications. To do this, the architect must have a broad understanding of software development; it’s better to have a soft knowledge of ten ways to solve a problem than mastery of only one. Even so, the architect does need to say up to date on modern technology. Though they may not write the code, architects need to be aware of all the possibilities if they want an impressive final product. 

Not only must an architect be an expert theoretical thinker, but they also must possess the skills of a project manager. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the concept is if it isn’t feasible, and every project has its limitations: whether it be budget, existing applications, time, talent, etc. The software engineer architect must create a flexible framework while navigating the resources and limitations they are dealt. 

Creating A Foundation For A Software System 

Once the software engineer architect has their theoretical design, the next step is to communicate it to the software developers. This is most often done with a set of charts and diagrams outlining the project. These diagrams are paramount for the project to get done right, so they must be thorough and accurate. The framework should be:

  • Presented in a way that the coders easily understand 
  • Consistent within itself and with other relevant frameworks
  • Able to express how the software will be structured as it grows 

Creating A Plan For Engineers To Follow 

A great architect is also a great organizer; they understand their team’s strengths and how to coordinate them. Though much of a software engineer architect’s job is in the planning phase, they should stay involved throughout the entire development process. While coders are working on the behavior of software, the architect’s job is protecting the integrity of its structure. 

When its behavior is prioritized over its structure, software is vulnerable to technical debt – the extra work it takes to modify software when its structure is low quality. In other words, technical debt is the extra code you’ll have to write tomorrow to fix the shortcut you took today. This can happen when coders have too little time or stray too far from the framework laid out by the architect. Thankfully, this can easily be mitigated when the architect stays involved for the duration of the project; if the structure is always a priority, you’re far less likely to encounter technical debt. 

Onshore Vs. Offshore → Onshore & Offshore

Developing software offshore is an excellent option for many companies, especially if they already have the architecture. Local specialists tend to be expensive, and often, you can hire someone with the same qualifications at a much lower rate by offshoring. Reduced costs aren’t the only benefit of developing offshore. Hiring abroad increases the number of talented individuals you get to choose from – and if your project requires more people than you thought, it’s much faster to grow a team offshore than it is onshore. Combined, lower costs and a larger hiring pool means that your product can be built offshore in a fraction of the time it would take to be developed locally. 

Of course, offshoring does have its downsides. Language barriers can make communication with your offshore team challenging, and managing a team in a different time zone tends to be taxing. At Vice Software, we’ve found a way to give our clients the benefits of offshore development without the downsides

How we do this is simple: we build the architecture onshore and the product offshore. By creating the architecture onshore, we’re able to work closely with our clients to make sure the framework we build is exactly what they had in mind. Once the framework is complete, our offshore team will develop the product according to the architecture’s specifications. By using this method, we can provide our clients with incredible software at a significantly lower cost. Sound good? Start with a quote today – we’ll get your software up-and-running in no time. 

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