As with admins, developers and analysts, there are various types of architects. In broad terms, these types are Enterprise, Solution, and Technical – each with different levels of emphasis on strategy and technology. Admittedly, there are certain nuances and overlaps regarding real-world roles and the responsibilities between the types of architects, which won’t be covered in this post.
Instead, I will focus on Salesforce Solution Architects. Specifically, I want to describe why and how we divide the world into Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) solution architect personas, before exploring the desire to invest in and focus on either B2B or B2C.
What Is a Solution Architect?
A Solution Architect is defined as follows on Trailhead:
Salesforce Solution Architects deliver domain-specific, multi-cloud solutions on the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform to create frictionless customer experiences that maximize business value.
When you think about implementations in the context of a product, you think of product specialist architects. For example, you can have a CPQ Architect, or a MuleSoft Architect, or a Heroku Architect, but a solution architect thinks about the implementation in the context of the customer.
When a customer asks for CPQ, what they are really asking for is the capability to create and manage complex product structures, configurable pricing rules, multi-currency support, and dynamic quoting. Your job as a solution architect is to give them this capability.
Giving the customer this ability might mean that you have data for leads coming from Commerce or Experience Cloud; it might mean that you have to integrate with legacy ERP systems or other public clouds, or it might mean doing revenue acknowledgement within CRM Analytics or Tableau – hence, multi-cloud.
Every business and industry tends to have Sales, Marketing, and Service motions with their own nuanced jargon. Therefore, domains help to characterize the business language, which in turn helps the architect to piece the solutions together from jobs to be done by the people and process – hence, domain-specific.
Taken together, it means the solution architects’ emphasis is less on “I’m giving you a product” and more on “I’m giving you a solution”. Solution Architects communicate the why and how to stakeholders, while providing leadership (business, delivery, and technical) in selecting product features that align with the customer’s vision and business needs. They keep the solution grounded to provide strategic business value.
Why B2B and B2C?
At Salesforce, we have divided the solution architecture track into B2B Solution Architect and B2C Solution Architect. You may be asking yourself: Why do we separate the world into these two groups?
The reason boils down to this: Who you are building for, and not what you are building. Addressing this is key, and an important takeaway from this post.
B2B means you are selling – directly or indirectly – to a business. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals working in that business within many departments and business units; each department (or BU) has a lot of rules, a lot of financial stakes, and a lot of relationships – people joining, leaving or changing roles. In essence, there is a lot changing all the time. Ask yourself: How is your solution tracking and accommodating these changes?
Then there’s B2C, where the customer or end user is one person – a human being. This individual customer expects a lot and can do a lot. For example, if I’m buying new headphones, I’m not just looking at your customers’ website, I’m looking all over the place! I’m asking friends and family for recommendations. I’m googling reviews. I’m seeking out social media influencers’ opinions. In essence, I’m collecting data to make an informed decision.
It also means that I’ve registered interest on your marketing platform, bought from your commerce platform, returned a product on your customer portal, and left an online review on a third-party system. My profile with different ids/usernames exists on these different clouds/platforms. So how are you, the SA, recognizing me as the same individual across these different touchpoints?
Some companies are both B2B and B2C. Others are B2B2C, where a company sells/markets indirectly through another company but consumers will recognize the brand of the product/service company (e.g. Adidas via Foot Locker). And some are B2C2B, where a company sells/markets to the employees of a business customer (e.g. Heroku). Once you solve for B2B and B2C separately, you can solve for any combination of these.
The question we like to ask is this: Am I selling a thousand pairs of shoes to a business or am I selling one pair of shoes to one person? These two models are different; how you maintain relationships with a business is different from how you maintain relationships with individuals – your sales process, service process, and marketing strategy will be different depending on whether you’re talking to an individual or a business.
An individual will make a lot of low-value purchases, whereas a business will have a lower volume of high-value purchases. A solution architect needs to be aware of the nuances between the two models, and they should emphasize the different aspects of the solution for each model – that’s why we enable along the lines of B2B and B2C solution architecture.
Why invest in becoming a B2B Solution Architect?
Essentially, you should invest because B2B customers and their challenges aren’t easy.
Salesforce has been a B2B company since 1999, and we know that as companies grow and evolve, their demands change along with their needs. More customers means new challenges and opportunities. We looked at how, in B2B, it’s not just about you or your team, or department – it’s about multiple departments engaging in multiple ways with a customer. This means you have to build holistic solutions that cater for process flows across departments, and sometimes the solutions for these different departments could span multiple clouds.
B2B businesses also rely on intermediaries for their sales, renewals, and services. These intermediaries could be resellers, dealers, partners, contractors, or vendors etc. These are businesses with individuals and departments. As a result, a B2B solution architect has to tackle the complexity that additional layers of relationship management bring to the table. Customer centricity means giving your business customer the tools, solutions, and data to serve end customers seamlessly.
A B2B solution architect utilizes a combination of the following clouds or solutions to build a holistic design:
- B2B Commerce
- Experience (PRM)
Why become a B2C Solution Architect?
In the B2C world, you have to cater for an individual customer who will engage and interact with the business at multiple levels and touchpoints (as described above). As a B2C solution architect, you build a solution that gives the business the capacity to respond to these interactions (almost in real time). In other words, you are building for scale.
The challenge here is that the human being in the middle of these transactions can appear as multiple profiles in different systems.
The B2C solution architect designs a solution to consistently recognize the individual behind these multiple profiles, possibly spread out across multiple clouds and systems, in a way that’s helpful and enhances customers’ experience. The critical element of this solution is the orchestration of data across multiple systems. Customer centricity in the B2C world means providing a consistent and seamless experience for the individual person at the center of the transactions.
Note: This challenge is also applicable to B2B and tracking individuals within those businesses.
A B2C solution architect utilizes a combination of the following clouds or solutions to build a holistic design:
- B2C Commerce
- Experience (Customer portal)
Consider investing in both a B2B and a B2C Solution Architect
Here’s why… both B2B and B2C solution architects can:
- Bridge business needs and technical implementations to realize business value.
- Visually articulate the solution to bring clarity and alignment to their teams.
- Translate solution architecture technical details to a business audience.
- Support the overall vision for business solutions.
- Design an efficient end-state solution architecture for multi-cloud use cases.
- Guide implementation teams through multi-cloud integration best practices and testing scenarios.
- And much, much more!
Both B2B and B2C architects utilize these clouds and solutions to build scalable architecture:
- Platform for building agile bespoke solutions.
- MuleSoft for API-driven integration.
- Tableau for data-driven decision making.
- Einstein for AI-driven solutions.
We’ve built a world-class Solution Architect curriculum for you to learn from, not only to help you become a better multi-cloud architect, but also to help you get certified. Check out these resources:
By following the learning journeys (B2C, B2B) in Partner Learning Camp, learners can build multi-cloud implementation skills. Once they finish the curriculum, they can bring value to projects with a business and technical leadership mindset.
You can also engage with the Architect Success team to find out more about the Salesforce Solution Architect Program – review the resources here.