“Ask the Expert” Webinar Series: Why and When Do You Need a Salesforce Architect?

By Nick Hamm, CEO, 10K Advisors

As the Salesforce ecosystem has expanded and evolved, so has the need for a Salesforce architect. An architect is one of the most requested roles in the 10K Community, not only because of the value they bring but also because they’re not easy to find. It isn’t easy to become a Salesforce architect (especially a certified one), and finding a great one who is a good fit for your situation is not easy either. 

According to our Salesforce Talent Ecosystem research, Salesforce architects make up less than 1% of the overall Salesforce talent pool. While the supply/demand ratios are improving and the number of architects grew 43% YoY, the number of customers who need their help is increasing just as fast, if not faster. 

To talk about why that is, the value architects provide, and when customers should bring them into projects, we brought together a panel of three veteran Salesforce architects — Mike Gill, Joshua Hoskins, and Matt Lamb. These independent experts from three different countries have completed hundreds of successful Salesforce projects between them, and represent some of the best in the business. 

Click here to watch the full panel discussion, or read on for highlights.

What exactly is a Salesforce architect?

There are several different types of architects with new variations cropping up all the time. There are technical, solution, and delivery architects, those who focus exclusively on marketing, or business operations, and that’s just to name a few. While experience levels and focus areas can vary greatly, an architect is generally a seasoned expert who defines, designs, and executes solutions on the Salesforce platform. They can help to guide a company’s Salesforce vision, and act as a technical advisor throughout the entire engagement.

When is the right time to bring in an architect?

If you’ve ever built a house, chances are one of the first things you did (if not the very first) was hire an architect. You don’t call them when the walls are going up, but instead, incorporate them into the design process from the onset. Consider your Salesforce project the house in this metaphor.

While we understand everyone’s needs and budgets vary, it’s wise to have an architect on hand in the beginning stages of any new project. Architects are not cheap but their value typically more than justifies those rates. This is why we’ll tell you if you have to choose, to bring them in at the beginning as this is where they are the most valuable. They can not only validate the type of technology you want to use, but also provide contextual insight and call out the risk areas of any plans while helping with design decisions about integration architecture or data migration strategy. 

Without an architect helping you make the right decisions in the beginning, you run the risk of blowing past your budget or timeline. Front-load that expertise as you’re building your plan and you will get the most bang for your buck.

Do I need to have a full-time architect?

An architect’s expertise is best utilized at the onset of a project to help save time fixing problems down the road. You may not need an architect who is allocated full-time for the entirety of the project, but consider keeping one on a fractional basis who can help keep things on track or advise you as problems arise (which they will). They don’t need to be there for the day-to-day, but having someone on speed dial or allocating a certain number of hours for oversight will save you time, money, and possibly relationships down the road. 

What are the attributes of a good Salesforce architect?

First and foremost, look for someone with applied experience. A good architect will be proactive and anticipate challenges before problems occur. Mike, Joshua, and Matt all shared that the first step they took as an architect was to find a good mentor. Your ideal architect is someone who can take input from your business and the technical side, weigh it against their knowledge from past projects, and identify the things they don’t know and how to remedy that. This also means being humble enough to admit when they don’t have all the answers,

A good architect can also effectively communicate with a range of people, understanding their needs and what they need to hear. Because architects interact with everyone from the C-Suite down to individual contributors, it’s important that they use the right vernacular. The best architects are those who listen, not just to what’s being said and by who, but to what’s not being said. Part of this is being able to read a room and pull out everyone’s concerns even if they aren’t offered up.

While it’s not required, it also helps if an architect has or has had development experience. An architect should be able to help developers with problems, confirm that their code is solid for scale and that it complies with Salesforce best practices. Ultimately, it’s the architect who will need to figure out how to fix a performance problem in production, so if an architect hasn’t spent time in Apex or any coding language, they’ll struggle to identify problems. 

With that said, a solution architect doing pre-sales work and helping the customer put together a high-level implementation strategy probably doesn’t need extensive coding knowledge. However, be wary of a pre-sales architect who sells a high-level vision to the project stakeholders without talking about resource needs to meet project goals. 

When don’t I need an architect?

At this point you may be wondering, “Well, if an architect is such a jack-of-all-trades, why wouldn’t I just hire them and no one else?” While an architect brings a unique combination of strategy and execution, having this role do everything that’s necessary on a project isn’t the most cost-effective way to get things done. Remember these are experienced in-demand roles, which command higher hourly rates than less experienced individuals. 

Beyond the price tag, sometimes you just need a specialist. Just as you probably wouldn’t hire the architect who designed your house to also act as the roofer, electrician, and plumber. If there is an extensive amount of development to be done, hire a developer. Most architects don’t want to write code all day for a project. And because it’s not their standard day-to-day job, they wouldn’t be nearly as efficient as someone whose full-time job is development.

Finally, one of the most appealing aspects of being an independent architect (which many architects are these days) is maintaining the ability to work on multiple clients at a time. That ability to work across projects not only brings a larger breadth of experience, it also presents a variety of new problems to solve. Most of the architects we have worked with are problem solvers at the end of the day, and people tend to do their best work when they are happy. 

Watch the full panel discussion below.