End of September, Pisa, 7 years ago. An Italian guide, before climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, proudly tells tourists a brief background: the tower was erected in several stages, was completed almost 200 years after the start of construction, and at the first stage a tilt was discovered due to too soft soils under the foundation … I begin to listen more attentively to the moment: it turns out that the architects of the tower did not dare to give their heads up for cutting off and abandon further construction, but they consistently worked on balancing the structure for decades. Thanks to this, as well as to certain efforts of our contemporaries, we have the opportunity not only to contemplate, but also to visit a truly outstanding architectural monument.
I am impressed by the timing of projects of that already relatively enlightened time. However, in today’s business world, few people would like to repeat such a feat – to build for centuries – neither contemporaries, let alone descendants will appreciate it. But you can see, keeping the analogy with construction and speeding up the time by orders of magnitude, that often the development of the architecture of today’s organizations resembles the balancing of a tower under construction and at the same time falling. At the same time, strong winds blow, earthquakes occur regularly, and residents have already moved in and are actively involved in redevelopment. It would be great to make the tower light and resilient so that it does not break, and if it accidentally falls, it comes back like a tumbler. But the higher we go, the faster we build, the more attention we pay to the top and beautiful decoration, the heavier it becomes and threatens to bring down the entire tower even with a slight slope.
Similarly, in recent years, the modern professional community has been making every effort to convince others and themselves of the continuity of the birth of something new. I do not argue that technologies are evolving, and bright minds give birth to innovative ideas. But there are much more people who want to join (earn): let us remember how for several years in a row partners of international consulting companies in expensive suits moved from office to office with a proposal to “uberize your business”, focusing on a respected but unprofitable aggregator for manufacturability, in fact, without material assets. They were followed by energetic guys in T-shirts, promising to first implement “any whim” on the blockchain, then cut half of the employees thanks to AI, and so on ad infinitum. Taking a closer look, you can see that the “old” business models for the most part do not disappear anywhere, but rather are reinvented and hidden under new terminology. Of the well-known, it really looks relevant “Platform model”, which also, in general, did not appear from scratch. It requires significant investments, but if successfully implemented, it gives an increase in efficiency and potential for market share.
More often than not, it all comes down to improving the packaging (oh, sorry – the customer experience) so that the trickle of consumer demand changes its course in the desired direction. It is a surrogate. In reality, if I want a personalized customer experience, I have to become very rich. And if, for example, I ask to build a simple autopilot into my car not at the price of a new car, but at the price of a good gadget, then it will not work without replacing the platform – it is not provided, and that’s it. On the one hand, we are being pushed to change cars with the same regularity as smartphones, but this question is more about society and the environment. On the other hand, as soon as we touch on architecture, it is no longer easy to change “on the fly”. For example, a company’s strategic goals are updated regularly, and much more often than the architectural principles designed to ensure the implementation of a long-term strategy (if any).
Will anyone share a successful experience of implementing a new business process immediately for tens of thousands of clients and hundreds of employees, in a two-week sprint mode? Someone might say, easy is agile. But I’m not about developing interfaces, not about adding business rules, not about A / B testing, but directly about “releasing a process” from scratch – and we find that the platform is difficult to create using Scrum, but the latter needs to ensure its normal functioning in applied areas. The platform does not consist of user stories alone, in much the same way that online retail success is less dependent on a website. At the same time, let’s present an example from another area: how much the CEO or CFO will be happy with the recommendation to write off the “excess” equipment and rent a place in a new data center with the creation of a hybrid cloud. Why didn’t you think about it before, they will definitely ask with a serious look. In the end, of course, we need infrastructure-on-demand, but the cost of such a service will depend on our foresight.
To summarize, the goal of the corporate architect, in conjunction with other transformation leaders, is to provide the necessary and predictable flexibility over the long term for detailed design and subsequent “continuous improvement” while ensuring the sustainability of the “overall structure”. This paradigm has not undergone significant changes over the decades, only motivation was expressed in other words and the need for flexibility was not always so obvious. Therefore, the fashionable term “agile architecture” sounds funny, but agile organization architecture – quite appropriate.
We now have real ways to make the organization as a whole more flexible – and this is more important and more difficult than maintaining flexibility technically and organizing an appropriate development cycle, thanks to microservices, containers, continuous build, etc. At a minimum, transformation program and portfolio leaders need to embrace the fact that teams will be using agile methodologies to execute their plans and be able to leave enough room for them. But baboutGreater success can be achieved by radically revising the organizational and functional structure of the company and the management model. At the same time, flexibility should be within the delineated acceptable boundaries determined by the investment strategy, portfolio goals and program roadmaps. It is then unlikely that the company’s business building will suddenly start to collapse, and it will take many months to fix and balance. Determining the right balance of flexibility and resilience is a completely solvable task.
- Agile transformation: everything is real