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:

    1. A thinking and recording tool;

    2. A time and place for conversations;

    3. A light to illuminate and guide towards a unified direction (Team-sourced Architectural Principles);

    4. 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.