Software architecture plays an irreplaceable role in enabling businesses to deliver value efficiently. This is evident in how digital natives have been challenging incumbents and forcing them to rapidly digitize and transform how they operate and innovate. Accordingly, achieving architectural excellence is a continuous process of efficient implementation, advanced planning, and executive leadership engagement. Furthermore, it’s essential to recognize that software architectural strategies and planning shouldn’t be limited to IT. Enabling collaboration between IT and business leaders is necessary as software architecture plays a key role in delivering value, making processes robust, and tackling the next wave of changes in value creation and delivery.
The Goal of a Good Software Architecture
A good software architecture facilitates the ongoing business processes function robustly and ensures business capabilities are competitive against threatening challenges. Beyond this, the software architecture should also become the fundamental aspect of driving the next waves of business changes—whether they are processes, models, or innovative products and features. These changes result from competitive forces increasing digitization, transformation, and ecosystem-based consolidation, making change the overarching constant in various business aspects. Accordingly, conventionally viewing a software architecture at a limited software or product level doesn’t work as well as it used to. The practice of viewing software architecture at the business and ecosystem-level gains even more emphasis as digitization and innovation make businesses and ecosystems digitally intertwined in how they interact.
The following fundamental aspects describe how to innovate with architectural excellence:
Security and Privacy
Customers are increasingly becoming wary of how their data is handled and protected—and are even reluctant to do business if an organization doesn’t have clear policies on how it protects and handles customer data. On the other hand, regulators are constantly improving their compliance requirements to protect customers. This landscape is changing at different rates across multiple countries, posing challenges and equally creating opportunities for fast adapters. All of this implies that businesses need to ethically manage customer data along with protecting against the constantly evolving threat landscape. To satisfy this need, it is necessary to revise the existing software architecture and involve senior executives in making critical decisions in this respect. Moreover, architectural planning cycles should come down to a few months—instead of years. This is key to building and implementing innovative solutions rapidly to tackle changing regulatory landscape and customer expectations.
Satisfy User Needs
Since 2008, the smartphone has been changing customers’ experiences and expectations. Digital disruptors are continually challenging incumbents and threatening their survival. In this paradigm shift, businesses should understand their customers more deeply, quickly adapt their business models and introduce new products to fulfill customer needs. It requires architectural agility that offers the flexibility to innovate business models in shorter cycles and improve them faster with customer feedback. This also means keeping a long-term view towards software architecture planning and strategy development that enables seamless innovation and eliminates process and performance bottlenecks. In this view, software architecture improvements and decisions should align with business objectives and strengthen business capabilities, not just the number of implementations or technical solutions the IT has delivered.
Today, more and more businesses need developers to help them digitize and transform. Accordingly, empowering developers is essential, and software architecture is the fundamental way to help them drive innovation and build critical business capabilities. Developer empowerment is usually measured in terms of developer velocity — it defines how enabled developers are to be agile and how well their talent is utilized. To improve developer velocity, provide them with a well-defined software architecture to focus on quality and consistent development. Also, the software architecture must have scope for customization so that developers can utilize it to its full potential.
While the above describes the overarching approach, the following sections detail the fundamental aspects of achieving innovation with architectural excellence.
The software architecture should support scaling applications seamlessly on-demand to accommodate spikes in user growth and scale back to save operational costs. Accordingly, this approach requires deploying your application in the cloud while ensuring not just the underlying infrastructure but also the multiple components in your entire system scale without friction or intervention. High performance should accompany this to ensure customer satisfaction and deliver a superior experience. This means that your system should perform ideally at any scale at any time.
Can the system itself or components of it be deployed in any cloud platform—public, private, or hybrid cloud? How much does it cost to move in terms of time, effort, and cost? In a world of hyperscale cloud providers and cutting-edge cloud services, a company’s IT ecosystem shouldn’t be locked into one platform or vendor but should utilize the best available services and technologies currently—that are also future-ready to improve performance and optimize overall costs.
Businesses should develop a compliance framework that aligns people, processes, and strategies with regulatory requirements to ensure compliance and avoid non-compliance risks. Also, the framework should be work-in-progress to accommodate upcoming changes from regulators across the board.
Similar to the source code of software components, software architecture should be easily maintainable—meaning that the software architecture shouldn’t introduce bottlenecks when modifying and improving it.
Maintainability issues could take many forms: is the software architecture outdated for the current technical and business landscape? Is it using legacy versions that are incompatible when other components and dependencies are updated? Ensuring the software architecture’s maintainability helps facilitate innovation and move at a competitive pace. If at all unsure where to start improving or redefining a software architecture, start with maintainability.
IT is often under constant scrutiny to justify its expenditure, and it is complicated to measure IT’s meaningful contribution to the business outcomes. As a result, IT constantly faces the risk of budget cuts and challenges in optimizing costs. Typically, the software architecture is let to grow organically, leading to duplication of system and efforts and inconsistent data across systems. To overcome this, control the software architecture on an ongoing basis, which, in turn, allows for more predictable cost-control.
In this fast-changing landscape of digital, businesses should maintain flexible architectures that facilitate innovation and continually improve the software architecture using agile methodologies to gain a competitive advantage in the business capabilities. This practice is much needed, especially when digital disruptors are increasingly threatening to take it all—leaving laggards behind.
Originally Published at DevOps