Three key factors critical to building a solid agile EA practice include:
In large organizations, agile teams often work in silos and lack the business big picture and strategic vision. As an enterprise architect, use this opportunity to provide these teams with the “intentional architecture” as described in the SAFe framework as part of the strategic vision.
To do so, apply the good old architecture framework that consists of starting by capturing the business strategy by modelling business goals and planned capabilities. Then, for IT architecture, model the current application and technology architecture as a starting point and tie it back to business capabilities.
The next step is to design the intentional architecture that you envision to support the business strategy. You can also build an IT strategic roadmap based on the different projects required to move to the intentional architecture from the current architecture. This roadmap can be shared with the development teams, so they have a better understanding of the strategic elements.
Architects are often described as living in their ivory tower, disconnected from reality. In agile environments, this can no longer be the case. Developments are moving fast, and agile teams are empowered to design the architecture they need based on the eleventh principle of the Agile Manifesto, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” In the SAFe framework, this is called “emergent design.” However, emergent design can present many flaws because development teams may be unaware of business objectives, technical standards used by the organization, or other architectural projects running in the organization. Using an architecture designed by development teams can therefore induce reworks impacting the overall time-to-market.
Collaboration with development teams enables sharing of the intentional architecture and its constraints. In return, development teams help correct the intentional architecture. By reconciling the emergent design with the intentional architecture, an “architectural runway” is created as described in the SAFe Framework.
As an architect, it’s important to work across multiple development teams, providing the complete vision to the teams, and therefore breaking down silos.
By building a “just-in-time” architecture, it continuously evolves as market requirements change. Starting from the initial architecture first envisioned, you can update it using an incremental approach based on the emergent design and the development teams’ feedback. The Architectural runway can also be advanced to support upcoming epics. If the architecture doesn’t follow the pace of developments, it can easily be viewed as a brake by developments teams instead of bringing value.
Finally, keep the architecture simple because it needs to be understandable by everyone and most importantly, it needs to be easily updated, in a continuous manner.
While agile developments are well adapted to continuous market changes, large development teams may lack the big picture, and may not fully understand the entire ecosystem. With an Agile Enterprise Architecture practice, you will work collaboratively with the development teams to share the strategic vision. As developments occur, you can work with them to incrementally update the architecture based on their feedback, but also support new epics.
Interested in learning more about Agile Enterprise Architecture? Download the white paper “Agile architecture in the digital age” published by The Open Group, presenting the Agile Architecture Framework (AAF), a new architecture framework that meets the needs of the digital enterprise.