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Astound’s Steve Collins leads the way in solution architecture.

Successful ecommerce requires a deep bench of talent, and every position is essential to creating and managing a powerful and effective platform. But perhaps no job is more critical than solution architect—the person who serves as the liaison between the technical teams and the client, assuring that the proper remedies are applied to each customer’s problems.

Glen Martin
Frequent Astound Insights contributor whose other credits include Forbes, Wired, Outside, and Men's Journal

Brands can choose from a wide array of digital tools when constructing ecommerce platforms, but no application ameliorates all pain points right out of the box. Bespoke websites require bespoke solutions, and the skilled solution architect knows how to customize specific components for every need.

“It’s analogous to teaching people how to work on a tractor,” says Steve Collins, vice president of technology for Salesforce multi-cloud solutions at Astound Commerce. “There’s a lot of plumbing on a tractor—hydraulic lines that control different things—and they all have to be connected correctly, or some bad stuff can happen. Similarly, all the APIs that inform a digital commerce site must be integrated and aligned correctly to realize their utmost potential. So what I basically do—what all solution architects do—is teach people how to connect things so the final product can do more than the individual components on their own. You’re looking for a sum that’s greater than its parts.”

It's an exceedingly complex and challenging calling, and Steve is at the top of the craft. The proof? He recently received one of the first credentials in Salesforce B2C Solution Architect, a gold standard certification that requires multiple prerequisite accreditations across Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and Salesforce Core.

Indeed, Steve’s widely acknowledged expertise in solution architecture convinced Salesforce to consult him on the drafting of the B2C exam.

“They brought in about 30 of us from across the industry to work up the test questions,” Steve says. “This certification grew out of the pressing need for people who possess the requisite skills and knowledge to guide successful B2C implementation, to take things beyond a base CRM solution. Limitations apply in all Salesforce platforms—how many API calls can you make? How many data objects can you load? High volume can stop a solution in its tracks, and that’s a brand’s nightmare. If you’re running a flash sale and your site stops working, you get roasted. So we need people who can build out solutions on these Salesforce platforms to the highest level, and this B2C certification confirms that degree of proficiency.”

No solution architect, of course, creates optimal solutions in a vacuum, and Steve credits his colleagues at Astound with making his accomplishments possible.

“One of the best things about working for Astound is the caliber of the staff,” he observes. “Our architects, administrators, and developers are both deeply conversant with the latest technologies and extremely competent in applying them. Many times, the right solution only emerges after extensive dialogue and repeated thought experiments with your colleagues. They give me the confidence I need to do my work.”

When Steve isn’t immersed in easing pain points for Astound clients, he’s apt to be found on his 15-acre rural property outside Dallas, Texas, where he enjoys horseback riding, caring for a varied menagerie of livestock, and woodworking. He and his wife, Jennifer, welcomed their first child earlier this year. 

“I’m told fatherhood is challenging, he laughs, “but I think I’m ready for it. It can’t be any more stressful than working as a solution architect. Can it?”

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