The difference between Enterprise Architects and Solution Architects

In my opinion there is confusion around the architect positions.  I have seen some strange position titles with the word “architect” in them.  The way I like to explain the whole concept is by comparing organization architects to building architects.  The building architect’s main  focus is the design and integrity of a building whereas the organization architect’s main focus is the design and integrity of the whole operation.  There are 3 architectural levels as follows:

1. Building Architect – The role of a building architect is to understand the strategic goals and objectives of the building and create a design working within the city’s policies and standards.  This is true wether the design is a renovation, addition or a new build.  The end result is a blue print.

A building architect is not an electrician nor plumber and does not get into the wiring nor plumbing details but does have an appreciation of the trades and can highlight certain requirements.  Once the main blue print is created an electrician will take a copy and start over laying their designs, and a plumber will do the same thing.

2. Discipline Architects – Electricians and plumbers are examples of disciplines.  The role of an electrician for example is to understand the building codes that apply to electrical, add their design to the blue print, have the implementation inspected to ensure compliancy and coordinate with experts related to specialty electrical systems.  

For example the head electrician will direct staff to drill the holes and pull the wires implementing the design, schedule an inspector to ensure compliancy and coordinate with a home theatre specialist.

An electrician is not an expert in all of the different electrical systems. They will reach out to solution experts in this case the home theatre specialist to detail the designs for a home theatre system.  The electrician will coordinate among all of the electrical system experts.

3. Solution Architects – The home theatre specialist is an example of a solution architect.  They know their system inside and out, their sole focus is that one system.

Going back to the organization architects you will notice a similar pattern.

1. Enterprise Architect – The role of the enterprise architect is to understand the strategic goals and objectives of the organization and create a design.  The end result is a “TO BE Architecture” or Future Operating Model.  For more details around the role and responsibilities of an EA refer to my previous post.

2. Discipline Architects – The discipline architects focus on designs and standards within their area of discipline.  Their role is to work with the EA to understand the TO BE Architecture (similar to the blue print) and to over lay the details of their discipline.  They will create standards (similar to the building codes in the example above) to ensure consistency, reviews (similar to inspections in the example above) to ensure compliance and  create measures and tools as a way to monitor the day to day operations ensuring strategic goals continue to be met.  Looking at each discipline independently:

    1. The business architect is all about the user/customer/client experience, and efficient business processes.  The tools and measures center around KPIs (Key Progress Indicators).  The business process manager and business analyst are examples of roles that would use the measures and tools to ensure day to day operations continue to meet the goals.
    1. The data and information architects as their name states focus on data and information.  The difference between the two is the data architect usually focuses more within the database and the information architect deals with the bigger picture of enterprise content of which data is just one part.  This discipline works very closely with the business architect.  They must understand how information relates to the business, and how it is used within the processes so they can create standards around how to find, store, use, share and secure the data and information.
    1. The integration and application architects focus on software.  The difference between the two is the integration architect usually focuses more with the in’s and out’s of the different systems and how they communicate with each other.  The application architect deals with the bigger picture and focuses on the systems and functions including integration.  This discipline works with the business and information architects to understand how the functions relate to the business processes. They create standards ensuring applications are decommissioned to avoid duplication, upgrades happen to avoid unsupported software, and functions are efficient and shared across systems to avoid duplications and inconsistency.
    1. The technical and infrastructure architects focus on hardware.  They create standards related to the network, servers, and routers as a few examples.
    1. The security architect works closely with each of the other 4 disciplines adding the security components and standards.  They also create measures and tools to assist with risk assessments and security breaches.   

3. The solution architects – The solution architects are focused on individual areas or systems within an organization.  Each of the 5 disciplines have a number of solution architects to help detail out the specific pieces within their domain.  They are responsible for the designs, standards and measures related to their system.

In summary an architect does not implement nor run the day to day business, they create: 

  1. designs so everyone knows what they are working towards, 
  2. standards and guidelines to ensure consistency across the organization during implementation,
  3. reviews to ensure compliancy and
  4. measures and tools to ensure production is meeting the organizations goals and objectives. 

The difference between the Enterprise Architect and Solution Architect is the area of focus and the level of detail.

Published by

Lisa Pantuso

Lisa spent almost 30 years working in both the private and public sectors, and has a reputation for getting things done. As the Government CIO Senior Information Architect she led a cross government Enterprise Content Management initiative. The Provincial ECM Strategy was published in 2012 and recognized as the first Provincial Strategy to be endorsed by all Ministries. In 2020, Lisa left to start teaching others the approaches and techniques that have set her apart.