Importance of soft skills for software architects

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Very often software architects get a reputation for being cracks in programming and in building solid architecture but they have problems with project management or relationships with the clients. Soft skills are very important nowadays. Whereas hard skills can be learned and perfected over time, soft skills are more difficult to acquire and change. Actually, I would say that the importance of soft skills in your job search and overall career is greater than you think because they help facilitate human connections. Soft skills are key to building relationships, gaining visibility, and creating more opportunities for advancement. And this article is about the importance of soft skills for software architects.

The importance of soft skills. What are soft skills, and why do you need them?

You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of soft skills. Basically, you can be the best at what you do, but if your soft skills aren’t good, you’re limiting your chances of career success.

Soft skills are the personal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. In other words, soft skills are a combination of social skills, communication skills, flexibility, conflict resolutions and problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence among others that enable people to effectively navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.

Soft skills are the difference between adequate candidates and ideal candidates. In most competitive job markets, recruitment criteria do not stop at technical ability and specialist knowledge. Employers look for a balance of hard and soft skills when they make hiring decisions. For example, employers value skilled workers with a track record of getting the job done on time. Employers also value workers with strong communication skills and a strong understanding of company products and services.

Even though you may have exhaustive knowledge of your area, you will find it difficult to work with people and retain your project if you lack the soft skills of interpersonal skills and negotiation. And soft skills are not just important when facing external customers and clients, they are equally important when it comes to interacting with colleagues. Soft skills relate to how you work with others. Employers value soft skills because they enable people to function and thrive in teams and in organisations as a whole. A productive and healthy work environment depends on soft skills. After all, the workplace is an interpersonal space, where relationships must be built and fostered, perspectives must be exchanged, and occasionally conflicts must be resolved.

Essential soft skills for being a good software architect

In Apiumhub we believe that the most successful architects that we have met possess more than just great technical skills. They also have qualities that enable them to work well with people.

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There are a lot of brilliant technologists who can solve just about any technical problem but are so arrogant that people despise working with them. For example, If you look at the Microsoft Architect program, you will notice that there is a set of competencies that go well beyond technical skills. These competencies were based on focus groups from companies large and small. One common theme from these focus groups was that the importance of soft skills is huge. In fact, they identified more soft competencies than technical competencies. In their view, the soft skills are what separate the highly skilled technologist from the true software architect.

The International Association of Software Architects (IASA) has also gone through a detailed analysis and polled its members to determine the skills necessary to be a successful software architect, the importance of soft skills was highlighted.

In Apiumhub, we also believe that the most successful architects we know are able to increase their effectiveness by combining their technical and nontechnical skills. And the successful technical solution requires three distinct soft skills: business alignment, perspective awareness, and communication.

Most software projects begin with some type of requirements document that drives most of the technical decisions or at least an architecture document that demonstrates how the architecture meets business needs. The issue generally is alignment at the strategic level. Usually, the software architect can discuss the business requirements, but it is surprising how often the architect cannot explain the project in terms that the CFO would understand. There is a lack of understanding of the real business drivers and the detailed financial implications versus the business requirements. It is the critical factor that drives the real project decisions. Being software architect implies thinking about your projects like a CEO and CFO. Invest the time up front to dissect the business drivers for the project, and if possible, determine the true financial impact of the costs and benefits of the project.

You need to think as an architect and not always accept clients’ demands as sometimes it is just impossible to do what you are asked to achieve. Use business drivers instead of requirements as your guide for developing the solution architecture. You need to keep an eye on business throughout the project lifecycle to maintain the appropriate flexibility in the project.
Also, you should constantly evaluate how your methodology maintains business alignment during the project life cycle. In other words, software architect should think about scalability, performance and cost reduction.

So, let’s look at the most demanded soft skills for software architects

You need to be an example for your team, be a person they would like to be. It is also about defining and communicating vision and ideas that inspire others to follow with commitment and dedication. You need to provide direction, and to lead, you need to know where you are going and make the decisions that will get you there. Understanding people is key here as you need to know how to explain your decisions.

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In our opinion, communication is the most important soft skill! Whether it is oral or written communication skills. This means being able to actively listen to others and explain your ideas writing and verbally to an audience that way that achieves the goals you intended with that communication. Communications skills are critical as for internal teams as for dealing with clients. And communication is also an important aspect of leadership since leaders must be able to delegate clearly and comprehensively.

System thinking
Understand decisions and constraints in the wide scope. It involves the techniques and thinking processes essential to setting and achieving the business’s short term and long term priorities and goals. And you decisions should be aligned with the overall business of the company.

It is about adaptability, about willing to change, about lifelong learning, about accepting new things. Really, don’t underestimate the ability to adapt to changes. In today’s rapidly evolving business environment, the ability to pick up on new technologies and adjust to changing business surroundings is critically important. Flexibility is an important soft skill, as it demonstrates an ability and willingness to acquire new hard skills and an open-mindedness to new tasks and new challenges.

Interpersonal skills
It is all about cooperation, about getting along with others, being supportive, helpful, collaborative. You should be effective at building trust, finding common ground, having emotional empathy, and ultimately building good relationships with people at work and in your network. People want to work with people they like, or think they’ll like – people who are easygoing, optimistic, and even fun to be around regardless of the situation. Because at the end of the day if you can’t connect with someone, then you will never be able to sell your idea – no matter how big or small it may be.

Positive attitude
Positive attitude? It means being optimistic, enthusiastic, encouraging, happy, confident.
This soft skill can be improved by offering suggestions instead of mere criticism, being more aware of opportunities and complaining less. Experience shows that those who have a positive attitude usually have colleagues that are more willing to follow them. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.

You should be accountable, reliable, get the job done, self-disciplined, you should want to do well. Don’t forget that you will be an example for others.

Sharing knowledge skills
Working in a team means helping each other, means sharing knowledge, Companies don’t want to have a brilliant software architect who is never ready to share his knowledge with others. Sharing knowledge you grow your team of high-quality tech experts.

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Critical Thinking
The ability to use reasoning, past experience, research, and available resources to fundamentally understand and then resolve issues. For example, Bill Gates reads 50 books each year, most of them nonfiction and selected to help him learn more about the world. Critical thinking involves assessing facts before reaching a conclusion. Software architects are sometimes faced with a handful of possible solutions, and only critical thinking will allow them to quickly test each scenario mentally before choosing the most efficient one.

Planning and effectively implementing projects and general work tasks for yourself and others is a highly effective soft skill to have.

Employers are looking for employees that take initiative, are reliable. Sometimes, CEOs don’t have the time to think about tech issues, so software architect should take an initiative and cover tech area of the business.

Problem solving
Employers want professionals who know how and when to solve issues on their own, and when to ask for help. Problem-solving does not just require analytical, creative and critical skills, but a particular mindset: those who can approach a problem with a cool and level head will often reach a solution more efficiently than those who cannot. This is a soft skill which can often rely on strong teamwork too. Problems need not always be solved alone. The ability to know who can help you reach a solution, and how they can do it, can be a great advantage. It is also about being able to coordinate and solicit opinions and feedback from a group with diverse perspectives to reach a common, best solution.

Time management
Time management is more than just working hard. It means making the most of each day and getting the most important things done first, priorities. If necessary, the ability to delegate assignments to others when needed is a part of it. Many jobs come with demanding deadlines and occasionally high stakes. Recruiters and clients prize candidates who show a decisive attitude, an unfaltering ability to think clearly, and a capacity to compartmentalize and set stress aside.

Never stop learning
Learning is a never-ending process. There is always someone you can learn from and some abilities you can improve or adjust. What matters is your willingness to learn.

There is a very good article about soft skills written by wikijob, which actually inspired us to write an article about soft skills specifically for a software architect. And in conclusion, I want to say that every software architect should understand the importance of soft skills. Software Architect should find a balance between hard skills and soft skills to be truly good in what they are doing and how they are doing it.

If you are interested in software architecture or you would like to know more about the importance of soft skills, I highly recommend you to subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.

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