Grounded Architecture

Redefining IT Architecture Practice in the Digital Enterprise

by Željko Obrenović, Chief Architect at AVIV Group

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  • Introduction

    This book will share my approach to running an IT architecture practice in larger organizations based on my experience at AVIV Group, eBay Classifieds, and Adevinta. I called this approach "Grounded Architecture," highlighting the need for any IT architecture function to stay well-connected to all levels of an organization and led by data.
  • Context: Fast-Moving Global Organizations

    The Grounded Architecture approach has evolved in the context of global, loosely coupled organizations that are diverse, with nonlinear growth dynamics, and under transformation pressures. My work reflects my experiences at AVIV Group, eBay Classifieds, and Adevinta.
  • Goals

    I identified the following needs that an architecture function should support: Executing At Scale, Adaptivity, Improving the Quality of Decision-Making with Data, and Maximizing Organizational Alignment & Learning.
  • Structure

  • Grounded Architecture: Introduction

    I introduce three elements of Grounded Architecture: The Data Foundation, The People Foundation, and The Architecture Activities Platform.
  • Data Foundation

    The Data Foundation serves as a medium to create a complete, up-to-date picture of critical elements of the technology landscapes of big organizations. The platform provides an architecture-centric view of data about a technology landscape based on source code analyses, public cloud billing reports, vibrancy reports, or incident tickets.
  • People Foundation

    We should not take our architectural talent for granted. Architects, and other people doing architecture work, are bridging local business, product, organizational, and technology issues. Architects are difficult to hire because they need in-depth technical, domain-specific, and organizational knowledge. Therefore, we must support, organize, and leverage architecture talent.
  • Architecture Activities Platform

    The Architecture Activities Platform is where, by leveraging data and People Foundations, we perform activities that help an organization reach its goals. Here are examples: supporting teams in their daily work; tracking tech debt; defining tech debt reduction programs; performing technical due diligence; standardizing processes and documentation; defining cloud, data, and platform strategies.
  • Value of Grounded Architecture Structure

    When Grounded Architecture structure is in place, it can have a significant positive impact on the functioning of an organization: Executing At Scale, Adaptivity, Improving the Quality of Decision-Making with Data, Maximizing Organizational Alignment & Learning.
  • Being Architect

  • Being Architect: Introduction

    I introduce guiding principles that generalize my view on what it means to be an architect in practice.
  • Architects as Superglue

    Architects in IT organizations should develop as “superglue,” people who hold architecture, technical details, business needs, and people together across a large organization or complex projects.
  • Skills

    A typical skillset of an architect includes hard (technical) skills, soft (people & social) skills, product development, business skills, and decision-making skills.
  • Impact

    Architects' work is evaluated based on their impact on the organization. They must demonstrate that they identify, tackle, and deliver on strategic problems, have a deep and broad influence, and deliver solutions that few others can.
  • Leadership

    My view of architecture leadership is inspired by David Marquet’s work and Netflix’s valued behaviors.
  • Architects' Career Paths: Raising the Bar

    Architects' career paths ideally stem from a strong engineering background. Hiring architects requires constantly raising the bar to ensure a strong and diverse team structure.
  • Doing Architecture: Inspirations

  • Doing Architecture: Introduction

    I introduce several resources that I use as inspiration for running the Grounded Architecture practice in complex organizations.
  • The Culture Map: Architects' Culture Compass

    Architects will work with many different cultures in multinational organizations. I have found the work of Erin Meyer, The Culture Map, to be a beneficial tool for architects to work harmoniously with people from various cultures and backgrounds.
  • Managing Organizational Complexity: Six Simple Rules

    The Six Simple Rules approach emphasizes that in today’s complicated business environment, you must set up organizational structures based on cooperation. To deal with complexity, organizations should depend on the judgment of their people and on these people cooperating to utilize the organization's capabilities to cope with complex problems. This view is well aligned with the ideas of Grounded Architecture.
  • Understanding Product Development

    When it comes to product development, I generally recommend two resources for architects: “Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value” by Melissa Perri, and “The Discipline of Market Leader” by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.
  • Architecture Governance: Nudge, Taxation, Mandates

    Architecture practice should support governance models adaptable to organizations' complex and diverse needs. I see a technology governance model as a well-balanced hybrid of three different styles of governing: nudging, taxes, and mandates and bans.
  • Economic Modeling: ROI and Financial Options

    I sketch two answers to the question of the economic value of technology investments and architecture: the return on investment metaphor and the financial options metaphor.
  • Decision Intelligence in IT Architecture

    Decision intelligence is the discipline of turning information into better actions. It includes strategies for improving decision-making, reliable data-driven decisions, and avoiding biases.
  • The Human Side of Decision-Making

    Decision-making is a human activity subject to human biases and limitations. Fundamental biases influencing decision-making include outcome, hindsight, and confirmation biases.
  • Summary

  • Summary

    This playbook aims to share my approach to running an IT architecture practice in larger organizations based on my experience as Chief Architect at AVIV Group, eBay Classifieds, and Adevinta.
  • Cheat Sheet

    Key points from all sections in one place.
  • To Probe Further

  • Bookshelf

    Overview of the background to probe further. External resources inspiring my work.
  • Tools

    Tools I've built and use in daily architectural work.
  • Favorite Quotes

    My favorite quotes about architecture.
  • Appendix

  • Appendix Overview

    An overview of three resources in the appendix.
  • ISO 25010 Standard

    ISO/IEC 25010 standard focuses on product quality and system quality models providing a reasonably complete yet compact source for understanding software maintainability, security, reliability, and efficiency.
  • Cloud Design Patterns

    A mix of key distributed and messaging system topics combined with modern public cloud engineering themes.
  • High Performing Technology Organizations

    A summary of characteristics of high-performing technology organizations.