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Software Architecture

The Benefits of Taking an Architectural Approach to Software Development

Q&A with MadeCurious Head of Engineering, Lee Barker

If adopting an architecture approach is not on your radar, you're missing an essential piece of the puzzle.
Here, MadeCurious Head of Engineering Lee Barker explains why adopting an architectural approach is an essential tool for better decision making, and how you can incorporate it into your organisation.
Lee has 28 years of experience in software development, architecture, and strategy in a wide variety of sectors, and leads the software engineering team at MadeCurious.
Lee Barker, Head of Engineering at MadeCurious

Hi Lee, thanks for your time. First of all, what is an architectural approach and why is it so important?

An architectural approach is a method you’d adopt for your organisation, and could underpin the delivery of everything from introducing third-party services, to the provision of digital products. It helps to build a clear understanding of your organisation and the relationships to your strategy, and looking at your organisation from many viewpoints to inform key decisions. An investment in architecture provides a return in the shape of better-informed decision-making, which can have hugely positive impacts on the outcome of your projects (and organisation as a whole). It promotes a whole heap of things from good design through to the early identification of potential risks, and gives stakeholders more clarity, among other things.

You’ve worked with organisations large and small. Why is it so difficult for many to adopt an architectural approach?

Larger organisations are more likely to embrace an architectural approach but it can still be a struggle for you to understand all the moving parts and how these fit together from different viewpoints. Understanding the current state of your enterprise, from the client-facing, revenue-generating assets, to all your support systems is really important. You can drop the ball on a number of things if you don’t know the current state. For example, introducing a third-party system, whether onto your hosted environments or via an upstream supply chain, can be fraught and risky. Having a great enterprise view of your organisation allows you to understand how this would be adopted and integrated. Without it, you run the risk of introducing systems with impacts on everything from HR processes to finance operations, increasing organisational complexity and - potentially - technical debt. 

If you’re in a startup, adopting an architectural approach is probably the last thing you think of, but neglecting to consider it can really impact your future bottom line. You run the risk of making early decisions in the absence of the right information which could inhibit growth and introduce expensive technical debt further down the line.

How can a CTO or project manager adopt an architectural approach if they’re not sure where to start?

Architecture responsibilities can be largely outsourced if your organisation cannot commit internal resources to it, but you don’t have to go to extremes.

We offer our partners a lightweight approach which can add rigour via architecture reviews at a regular cadence so key stakeholders can stay informed and make better decisions as a project evolves. Our architecture expertise covers all the pillars from business architecture, data architecture, technical and application architecture, supported by experienced in-house architects. This allows us to tailor a programme to fit a very wide variety of organisations and size of projects.

What kind of benefits have you seen from this approach?

For development and integration projects, things can look a bit different as requirements are discovered and evolve, especially when underpinned by an Agile approach. Having regular reviews allows you to track that delta and understand the rationale as to why an architectural decision has been made and why something has changed. Failure to surface these can be costly, time consuming and could damage your organisation in many ways. We tend to promote a lot of this info via an easy to understand slide deck you can use with other stakeholders to keep everyone on the same page. Our partners always appreciate this approach, whether it's giving them a greater understanding of how a project is fitting into their organisation or early insights into any unexpected discoveries.

What should people look out for when searching for a partner with architectural experience?

Track record. But also knowledge of the key architecture pillars and how they interrelate. We frequently look to architecture frameworks which define lots of fundamentals like the architectural development models, roadmapping, vision and review processes. It’s all the core stuff an experienced architect needs to know to help build out an understanding and approach which will ultimately aim, among other things, to help with everything from communicating risks with stakeholders to relationship, to strategy.  


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