Scaling the Practice of Architecture, Conversationally#
Article starts at the situation where there exists a small group of architects, that are a bottleneck to decision process.
Additionaly, the existing process involves a handoff between the architect drawing abstract diagrams, and an engineer implementing the design.
The organization structure contradicts a simple truth: architecture in the heads of those writing the code, that is the most important. As Alberto Brandolini said: “It is the developer’s assumptions which get shipped to production”.
Introduce the Advice Process: anyone can make an architectural decision, but they must follow the process. In essense they create a document of a particular structure, outlining the proposition, and seek an advice from affected parties.
Affected parties for each aspect of the decision making are documented as a checklist: this person for security, this for UX, that for analytics, etc.
The Process consists of four parts:
A thinking and recording tool;
A time and place for conversations;
A light to illuminate and guide towards a unified direction (Team-sourced Architectural Principles);
A means to sense the current technical landscape and climate.
They must document the advices received, and explore the alternatives, documenting them meticulously in the same doc.
They don’t need to actually follow each advice, and the chosen solution can contradict them.
Org holds weekly, hour-long Architecture Advisory Forum (“AAF”) primarily to seek and give advice in public, so the architectural principles dissiminate through the company.
AAF is not the only place to seek advice. In the early stage of ADR, 1-1s are more efficient and allow building up a solid ADR for a quicker AAF meeting. On the other hand, AAF meeting can result in follow-up 1-1s to explore the alternatives deeper.
Teams explicitly flag in their ADRs is not just the principles which apply, but also when their decision conflicts with one or more principles.
(Then article went on to explaining the mechanics and benefits of running an in-house tech radar. That didn’t resonate with me, maybe I’ll revisit it later.)
Architectural failures are integral part of the decision making. The team feels safe to re-visit, and share the learnings. It embraces them, calling them out specifically and celebrating them in the AAF. This is a key aspect of building a learning culture.
Some decisions never make it to ADR and AAF for many good reasons. When this happens, it’s important to treat is as a learning opportunity, instead of falling back to old ways and taking control.
Team (?) makes sure influence is balanced and not based on reputation, tenure or place in the hierarchy. Making sure quieter contributors are heard.
Advice Process is not looking for consensus, but for a broad range of inputs and voices.