Monday, August 30, 2010

What Makes a Good Solution Architect?

A recruiter friend of mine was looking for a senior "Solution Architect" and needed some help setting up a screening interview. Here is what I told him.

I look for solid experience in a diversity of solution. There are just too many people that think that HTML/Objects and RDBMS systems are the only tools in your architect's toolkit.

Here is what I suggested the interview questions would be like:

Consider the following application architectures:

  1. Ruby on Rails on a relational database
  2. XRX on a native XML database
  3. A Java Client on J2EE app server using JMS
  4. A JQuery client on an OLAP database

A senior "Solution Architect" should be able to compare the pros and cons of each system and describe how they have used each of these architectures to build solutions and give organizations a competitive advantage. I also drill down into their understanding of search and retrieval and natural language processing.

As a bonus question, I would ask how each architecture would impact an organization's business strategy and to what extent business units could be empowered to build their own applications with minimal training and little or no need for IT involvement.

Most good solution architects should have experience with 3 out of 4 solution architectures but very few usually have a strong MBA-type background to understand how solution architectures impact business strategy. And if you find anyone that has built systems with all for and has an MBA you have a serious senior solution architect. Hire them!