From Architecture Modernization: Socio-technical alignment of software, strategy, and structure by Nick Tune

Architecture Modernization: Socio-technical alignment of software, strategy, and structure presents concrete practices to evolve software, teams, and business strategy to achieve your business’s full potential.

An ageing architecture is a competitive disadvantage and a business risk. Hard to understand, hard to change, and highly fragile. This hands the advantage to faster-moving competitors. A modern architecture is a competitive advantage, enabling faster flow which improves time to market. Architecture modernization is the process of converting architecture from being a disadvantage into a competitive advantage for the organization.

Southwest airlines showed the world the dangers of using antiquated architecture during their 2022 scheduling crisis caused by a decades-old scheduling system. In one week, 14,500 flights were canceled and their brand suffered serious damage as they became a top international news headline for all the wrong reasons. There are many organizations, on the other hand, like Netflix that have successfully modernized their architecture and practices, converting architecture from a liability into a competitive advantage. This book is a guide for technology and product leaders who would like to follow in their footsteps.

This book is based on the idea of achieving independent value streams. To extract the full value from a modern architecture it is necessary to align software boundaries, domain boundaries, business strategy, and organizational boundaries to reduce dependencies and empower teams to make decisions quickly and deploy to production multiple times per-day. An independent value stream is the joint optimization of these 4 crucial elements, as shown below.

This book provides principles, guidelines, and hands-on techniques like EventStorming and Wardley Mapping that can be used throughout the modernization journey, and shows how to piece them together. In addition, you will see how the knowledge can be applied with real world industry examples from the author and other industry experts.

The main focus is on modernizing architecture to achieve the qualities of modern operating models: empowered product teams with a fast flow of changes deploying product enhancements daily at scale. This first chapter outlines the key aspects of an architecture modernization journey and how they fit together. Each topic is then covered in greater detail in subsequent chapters.

Minimum Qualified Reader for Architecture Modernization: who the book is for

Engineering to understand how various principles and techniques fit together, and also to architects, principal engineers, and tech leads who need more detailed information for putting the techniques into practice, like facilitating Event Storming workshops.

The prerequisites for CTOs, Directors, and VPs of Engineering are:

  • Desire to become a product-led organization: this book is based on experiences of working with product-led organizations. Readers of this book should be looking or open or already striving to become a product-led organization. This means:
    • Long-lived products as opposed to fixed time/scope/budget projects
    • Long-lived teams, aligned to areas of the business or product
    • Empowered teams – the whole team understands customer needs and is involved in the discovery of new product features – the team is not a feature factory where requirements go in and code comes out
    • You build it, you run it – teams are responsible for supporting their code in production
  • Ability to look and influence architecture beyond technology: the role of architecture in product-led organizations includes the social as well as the technical. Readers of this book should consider architecture to include business architecture, organizational architecture, engineering culture, and software architecture and have the ability to change or influence all of these aspects. The book outlines approaches that collectively address all of these aspects.
  • Ability to look beyond a quick-fix re-org or rewrite: Many leaders look for quick-fixes and bolt-ons — a big reorganization or putting a new website on top of an old legacy codebase, or expecting teams to make architectural improvements without reducing delivery of new features. Readers of this book must be prepared for a longer-term initiative (multiple years) that requires a large time investment that compromises feature delivery.

The prerequisites for principal engineers, technical leads an architects are:

  • Willing to facilitate and architect collaboratively: Previous facilitation experience is not mandatory, but will help a lot. The techniques in this book, like Event Storming and Wardley Mapping, are collaborative techniques for bringing groups of mixed skills and roles together. This book is not suitable for technical practitioners who want to have all the answers and design an architecture in isolation.
  • Willing to look at architecture more broadly: mapping out domains, business strategy, and shaping team organization are not skills typically associated with traditional software architects. In this book, those are key skills that technology leaders at all levels are expected to participate in and often lead.

What the reader comes out with

Listed below are some of the main takeaways that readers of this book will learn:

  • Knowledge of key product-led architecture modernization techniques like Event Storming, Wardley Mapping and Team Topologies
  • Knowledge of how the above techniques fit together to support a modernization journey and more importantly the principles that underlie them
  • Recipes for designing and facilitating workshops to get started with the above techniques
  • Guidelines, heuristics, and models for planning, leading, and sequencing a modernization journey
  • Examples demonstrating the application of the principles and techniques in a variety of industries
  • Design architecture for fast flow / improved time-to-market, with independent value streams
  • Codesign software architecture, business domains, team topologies, aligned to the business strategy
  • Learn how to model domains and subdomains with principles, heuristics and hands-on techniques
  • Plan and lead an evolutionary modernization initiative while upskilling the organization and creating durable, long-lasting change

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the book here.