AKF Partners

Abbott, Keeven & Fisher PartnersPartners In Hyper Growth

Agile Architects

If you think agile development methods and architecture are at odds, think again. They can not only coexist but can thrive together to build better products and platforms.

We recently posted what agile is not, where we outlined questions that we often hear about agile development. Another question that is often raised is how to combine the seemingly long-term process of architecture with the short-term nature of agile development. We believe that architecture is not at odds with agile development and that the two can not only coexist but complement each other. To ensure your architecture standards are being integrated with each sprint, resulting in a scalable and available architecture, we rely on the Joint Architecture Development (JAD).

We’ve covered JAD before but as a recap, this is the process by which features are designed in a series of meetings where developers, architects, and tech operations come together to create the design. This multi-function representation early in the development process ensures that individuals are aware of standards, there is buy-in from all concerned parties, and that the design is benefitted by the knowledge that exists in different technical fields.

In the IEEE Software article “Architects as Service Providers,” Roland Faber says that “the architect role is to champion system qualities and stability, while the developer role is to champion the system functions and change.” The agile architect interacts frequently and flexibly with the developers, building a trust relationship with them.

The JAD is ideal for flexible interaction that can happen in short bursts of effort that correspond to sprints. The agile architect must understand that, because of the nature of agile development, architecture must be dynamic and not static. Architects must rely on personal interaction with developers not documentation to understand the requirements.

Faber continues in his article describing two phases of the architecture process as preparation and support. During preparation the architect engages in processes such as prepare rules, frameworks, and structures. During support the architect helps resolve conflicts, engages in firefighting, and stimulates architecture communication. He makes a point that if the developers don’t believe the architects will provide support they won’t tell them when they are breaking the rules.

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