What does automation mean for architects?

Increasing automation – across core software delivery, IT management and business contexts – needs to be reflected in IT architecture change. Let’s see why.

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to be a presenter at January’s CW500 event in London – talking about key business/technology trends and how they’re affecting IT investment and governance.

As well as talking about industry globalisation and how digital technology has compounded the effects of that, I also talked about how inside organisations a new wave of automation is opening up completely new ways of thinking about products, services and business processes. I also touched on the impact of the colossal shift we’ve seen in computing, networking and storage price/performance over the past few decades – and how this abundance of resources has given rise to new ways of building and delivering business capabilities, created a challenging new set of parameters and assumptions for most technology leaders.

During the panel Q&A and over drinks, I got involved in a number of conversations with architects about the impacts of all this on the practice of technology / solution / enterprise architecture – and what architects should do about it.

I still come across quite a few organisations where Architects of various types are principally documenters (and sometimes standards-setters as well).

The problem is that in environments where all the trends above are increasing technology options and resource availability; where access to alternatives (beyond any corporate ‘standard’) is ridiculously easy; and where new capabilities need to be explored and delivered with change in mind, “architecture as documentation” is a pretty pointless idea.

So what works better (and what should Architects be thinking about)?

If Architects are going to add value, there needs to be a mindset shift away from “architecture as documentation” and towards “architecture as conversation”. To be more specific, the practice of technology / solution / enterprise architecture needs to be centred first around stakeholder engagement, collaboration, and active participation in project and product delivery.

I think Scott Ambler captures a lot of these ideas really well in the context of Enterprise Architecture specifically. He’s got a video on agile architecture here that’s worth a watch (particularly at around 28:30).

In case you’re interested, I’ve uploaded the slides from my CW500 talk on SlideShare and embedded them below.


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