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The Difference Between Enterprise Architecture and Solutions Architecture

by Zak Cole       • June 19, 2020

Despite the similarities in name, there are a number of key differences between enterprise architecture and solutions architecture.

Much like the differences between enterprise architecture (EA) and data architecture, EA’s holistic view of the enterprise will often see enterprise and solution architects collaborate.

And as with data architecture, a solution architect’s focus is narrower.

In this post:

What Is a Solutions Architect?

Solutions architecture is about solving problems. It describes the process of orchestrating software engineering to address an organization’s needs.

Typically, a solution architect’s responsibilities cover:

  • Assessing and understanding an organization’s technological assets
  • Finding a solution to address a problem
  • Defining and denoting the critical technologies for the organization’s operations
  • Understanding the impact of time on the current technologies in place, including establishing what can be scaled and what must be replaced/upgraded
  • Designing prototype solutions
  • Assessing and selecting new technologies

Their technical skills typically include software engineering and design, DevOps, business analysis and increasingly, cloud architecture.

What Is an Enterprise Architect?

Broadly speaking, enterprise architecture is a strategic planning initiative.

Enterprise architects are concerned with how they can reduce costs, eliminate redundancies in technology and processes, and prepare for, mitigate and manage the impact of change.

To operate effectively, enterprise architects must have a solid understanding of the organizations they work with/for.

Such an understanding has its advantages, but it also means that there isn’t the scope to be concerned with the more “technical” side of an organization’s architecture.

Typically, an enterprise architect’s responsibilities cover:

  • Understanding and developing the whole enterprise architecture
  • Evaluating risks and the impacts of change and creating a roadmap with such evaluations considered
  • Ensuring alignment between the business and IT through the organization’s enterprise architecture
  • Advising decision-makers and business leaders from an organization-wide, holistic perspective of the enterprise

From this perspective, solution architecture’s value to enterprise architecture becomes even more clear. Where an enterprise architect is concerned with the EA’s current state, and the strategy to reach the desired future-state, solutions architects act on that strategic direction.

Enterprise Architecture Tools

Enterprise Architects vs. Solutions Architects

Perhaps it’s misleading to use “versus” to describe the difference between enterprise architecture and solutions architecture. They are very much collaborators in the organization and should not be looked at as competitive in terms of which provides more value.

A better way of highlighting the difference between the two is through their focus on strategy vs. technology.

A focus on strategy implies a broad understanding of the mechanics of any given technology. This is because there is a lot more to strategy than just the technology needed to implement it. A skewed focus on technology would mean that the processes, people and other variables required to inform strategy are ignored.

Conversely, a focus on technology is necessary to ensure implementations and operations can run smoothly. By its nature, it is more “in the weeds” and so the necessary holistic perspective of the organization can be harder to understand and/or account for.

With their holistic view of the organization, enterprise architects take on the strategy. They then use their strategic planning perspective to inform and delegate to solutions architects.

In the same vain, a technical architect has a low strategic focus and a high technological focus.

Bottom line,  an enterprise architect’s strategic focus is high and their technology focus is low; technology architects operate in the reverse; and solution architects bridge the two.

The Imperative for Enterprise Architecture and Solutions Architecture

With the quickening pace of digital transformation and the increased acceleration owed to the Covid-19 crisis, enterprise architects and solution architects are becoming increasingly relevant.

“Enterprise architect” was named the top tech job in the UK for 2020 and as this article implies, solution architects should stand to benefit, as well.

However, simply hiring enterprise architects and solution architects isn’t enough. Enterprise architecture in particular has been blighted by its perception as a role operating in an ivory tower, disconnected from the wider business.

Considering IT and business alignment is a core tenant of an enterprise architect’s responsibilities, this is obviously counter-productive.

For many organizations, shaking this perception will require a change in how enterprise architecture is done. Organizations need a definable, measurable and collaborative approach to enterprise architecture to make the most out of its vast potential.

This means moving away from low maturity examples of enterprise architecture that are managed through a hodgepodge of repurposed tools, and decentralized notes.

erwin is helping organizations mature their EA with erwin Evolve. With Evolve, organizations can collaborate within a purpose-built enterprise architecture tool for both greater consistency and involvement from the wider business.

As part of the wider erwin Enterprise Data Governance Experience (EDGE), erwin Evolve lets organizations synergize their enterprise architecture with their data governance and management strategies.

This means that efforts to manage the enterprise architecture include a data inclusive perspective. And considering data’s value as an asset, this perspective is vital.

It means an organization can get a clear and full picture of the whole data lifecycle in relation to the systems and broader context it exists in, so that the intersections between data and the organization’s assets is clearer.

Organizations can try erwin Evolve for free and keep any content you produce should you decide to buy.

For more information on enterprise architecture, click here to get the erwin Experts’ definitive guide to enterprise architecture – 100% free of charge.

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  • LUQMAN
    Very clear definition of the roles of EA and SA. Best definition I have across so far.

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