In the context of business enterprise application development, an Architect must act as a bridge between the business and technology communities of an organization, representing and protecting the interests of each party to the other, often mediating between the two, but allowing the business to drive. The business organization's objectives and operating realities should be the light in which an Architect leads technology-oriented decision making.
Businesses routinely plan for and articulate a specific, desired Return on Investment (ROI) before undertaking a software development initiative. The Architect must understand the desired ROI, and by implication, the limits of the value of the software initiative to the business, so as to avoid making technology decisions that could cause the opportunity to be out-spent. ROI should serve as a major piece of objective context in the give-and-take conversations with the business about the value of a feature versus the cost of delivering that feature, and with the development team about technical design and implementation. For example, the Architect must be careful to represent the interests of the business to the development team by not agreeing to choose technology that has unacceptably costly licensing and support cost implications when the software is deployed into testing or production.
Part of the challenge of letting the business “drive” is providing enough quality information about the ongoing software development effort back into the business to support good business decision making. That’s where transparency becomes crucial. The Architect, in conjunction with development management, must create and nurture the means for regular, ongoing information feedback loops. This can be accomplished by a variety of lean software development techniques, such as big visible charts, continuous integration, and frequent releases of working software to the business starting early in the project.
Software development is fundamentally a design activity, in that it involves an ongoing process of decision making until the developed system goes into production. It is appropriate for software developers to make many decisions, but usually not to make busines decisions. However, to the extent that the business community fails to fulfill its responsibility to provide direction, answer questions and make business decisions for the software development team, it is actually delegating the making of business decisions to software developers. The Architect must provide the macro-context for this ongoing series of micro-decisions made by developers, by communicating and protecting the software architecture and business objectives, and seek to ensure developers do not make business decisions. Technical decision making un-tethered to the commitments, expectations and realities of the business, as articulated by the business community on an ongoing basis, amounts to costly speculation and often results in an unjustifiable expenditure of scarce resource.
The long-term interests of the software development team are best served when business drives.
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