Lean Architecture Principle #2: Travel light

13 May, 2010
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This is the second of a series of blog posts discussing Lean Architecture principles. Each post will discuss one principle and applying these principles will result in an architecture (process) that is better connected to the business, better able to deal with change and more cohesive. Last week we discussed the first principle Always involved. In this blog entry we discuss the second principle that applies to the architect role and the  architectural artifacts and is called “Travel Light“. Travel light should be taken literally, how much does the architect have to carry around running from stakeholder to stakeholder? How much material does he need to explain the business needs to the development team, what does he need to explain the vision of the product to the business, to involve operations early on, etc., etc. ?

Imagine an architectural study lasting over two years producing only a discussion paper, imagine a 500 page high-level architectural design, or a project start architecture document containing pseudo-code. What happens most of the times is that these documents get tossed aside once the development starts. These documents are too thick to read easily, and cost too much time and effort for developers or business to understand. As result of this all the good stuff that is in these documents is lost.
How do we accomplish Travel Light? Reduce the architecture of your IT systems to its core essence. Summarize the vision of the product into a few lines and some simple diagrams. Discuss these with the stakeholders, listen carefully to their feedback and ensure that the architecture vision and diagrams of the IT systems are understandable by the business, operations and project teams. This is the way to receive valuable input from all stakeholders and get immediate buy-in from these stakeholders. Don’t underestimate the challenge to define and capture a vision that is simple and understandable, it’s much easier to create complex vision and complex diagrams. So take your time and together with the stakeholders identify the core essence and capture that in diagrams.
How does the principle contribute to the 3 C’s of architecture? A better cohesion is achieved because everyone involved understands the vision of the product in its environment and since everybody understands and supports it, they can and will apply it in projects. Connection with organizational goals (both business and project) is improved simply because by traveling light the architect is able to have meaningful discussion about the vision  with all stakeholders. Changeability is improved because the vision focuses on the core essence and aims to define simple architectures. Simple architectures may take more effort to define, but are easier to adapt when changing requirements require this.
This was the second in a series of blog posts on Lean Architecture principles, the next one will follow in about a week.


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