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App Development
7 minutes read

Software Architect vs Software Engineer

By Robert Kazmi
By Robert Kazmi
App Development
7 minutes read

The software architect vs software engineer debate is one that often confuses many managers and top-level executives and with good reason. Often, it is not easy to distinguish between the many different roles inside software development.

For anyone without the right level of technical knowledge, a software developer is any person that works on building digital products. Although this is somewhat true, there are some details that need to be considered. After all, not all software developers perform the same tasks. 

There are a number of different roles that software developers perform depending on the tasks that need to be done. These tasks usually vary depending on the software programs being built as well as the different stages of the software development life cycle your project is in. 

Additionally, teams are usually made of different software development professionals. In other words, there is a lot of variety when it comes to software development. However, it would be safe to say that any software developer has a basic understanding of subjects related to computer science and the necessary skills to write code, even if on a basic level.

If you are considering whether you should include a software architect or a software engineer in your team but are not familiar with their distinct responsibilities, this post is for you. We will explain each of these roles so that you can have a better understanding of what they do and how they might contribute to your software development project.

Software Architect vs Software Engineer: They are Different

Software architects and software engineers are not the same. Although they both are software developers and perform certain tasks that involve writing code or building functional computer systems, they perform different tasks. 

Both roles have highly specialized technical knowledge in different fields, and each contributes in its own unique way to the success of a software development project.

Software Architect vs Software Engineer: Which Is Better?

Before we go any further, it is important to address the question of whether software architects are better than software engineers. Although it may surprise you, this is something that many organizations usually ask.

In short, the answer is that it depends. Software architects and software engineers perform different tasks, each of them valuable depending on the stage of the software development life cycle your project is in and the tasks that need to be done.

For some projects, having a development team with strong skills in software architecture might be more valuable than having savvy software engineers. On the contrary, other projects will benefit more from having a development team that specializes in software engineering instead of software architecture.

The Role of a Software Architect

A software architect takes care of anything related to software planning and organizing. In most cases, they won’t actually write the fundamental aspects of the code, even though sometimes they might write certain minor requirements. However, even if they don’t write code, their decisions have an important impact on the end result.

On most occasions, a software architect will decide which tools will be used for software development. This matters a lot because, depending on the tools being used, your project will increase or decrease its probability of success. This is especially true when it comes to mobile tech stacks.

In general, software architects also get to decide other important aspects like the coding and development standards that will be used in a given project. This will dictate an important part of how the work will be done. 

Also, remember that a software architect creates bridges between non-technical people in a project and software engineers. By translating business aspects of a project into specific technical tasks, they help project managers organize the workflow into specific epics and user stories the team must complete.

Some key aspects that a software architect should look out for and consider when working on a project include:

  • Clear and concise communication
  • Transparency of information for all team members
  • Measurable and easily executable goals
  • Feasibility of technical considerations

Sometimes, the role of a software architect is confused with those of project managers or product owners. The difference between these is that the software architect focuses on technical aspects, whereas the other two tend to focus more on market aspects of the product.

The Role of a Software Engineer

As its name suggests, a software engineer is responsible for anything related to software engineering. This is a branch of computer science that is responsible for how software is actually built. To make this happen, there are several things that a team of software engineers needs to do.

In practical terms, software engineering deals with everything related to the development, testing, and maintenance done throughout software development. Sometimes, a software engineer might even be responsible for the actual design of the software; do not confuse this with the design of the User Interface. 

Usually, a development team of software engineers has many different sub-roles for each of these activities. One that is worth highlighting is that of QA engineers. This specific role is responsible for the testing part of software engineering. They are the ones responsible for identifying bugs and other errors that may compromise the quality and User Experience of your software. This makes Quality Assurance a critical part of any development project.

With that said, a necessary clarification needs to be done regarding a software engineer’s different levels of experience. Depending on your project’s complexity level, you might want to have someone with a high level of expertise in your team. In that case, you might want to consider a senior software engineer.

It is hard to say what makes someone a senior software engineer. To some, this comes with several years of experience. However, that isn’t always the case. A great way to verify if someone has the necessary level of expertise to be called a senior software engineer is to perform a technical test. That way, you can validate the person’s knowledge and technical proficiency skills.

Lastly, consider that you might not just want someone with technical skills in certain situations. Sometimes, it is also necessary to have a software engineer with soft skills that help manage the team. This role is often referred to as a principal software engineer. Contrary to a regular software engineer, a principal software engineer is in charge of, besides developing the product, developing the team.

Principal software engineers go beyond the traditional software developer role. They have important soft skills that allow them to take care both of the technical and human aspects of a project.

The Difference Between a Software Architect and a Software Engineer

The main difference between a software architect and a software engineer is that the former focuses on the technical aspects and feasibility of the product. In contrast, the latter focuses on building the technical solutions that make the software operational.

Finding the Right Software Architects and Software Engineers

An essential part of the success of any software project depends on the quality of its development team. These include vital roles like software architects and software engineers. 

Not all companies need to have these software professionals directly on their teams. A great alternative is to find a trusted app development company that can help your team with this. Using staff augmentation services is usually a great alternative.

Now that you know the key aspects of the software architect vs software engineer debate, you will understand better what to focus on to guarantee your project’s success.

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