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KEY POINTS:

  • This playbook describes an approach to running an IT architecture practice in larger organizations.
  • 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.
  • In this section, I want to tell a few things about my motivation to write this playbook.

Intro

This playbook describes an approach to running an IT architecture practice in larger organizations. 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.

Grounded Architecture has two main parts:

  • Structure, elements you need to have to run Grounded Architecture practice, and
  • Reflections, a set of my considerations and guiding principles that can help put the ideas of Grounded Architecture into practice.

The following figure illustrates the structure of the Grounded Architecture consisting of three elements:

The Data Pillar ensures that architects’ decisions are data-informed, based on a up-to-date and complete overview of the organization’s technology landscape.

The People Pillar represents a strong network of people doing architecture across the organization that is crucial to ensure that architecture function has any tangible impact.

Lastly, the Architecture Activities Platform leverages data and people to create a data-informed, deep, and broad impact.

The following reflections provide some ideas and key lessons I learned while developing ideas of Grounded Architecture in practice:

The rest of this site will explain in detail the grounded architecture approach. In this section, I want to tell a few things about my motivation to write this playbook.

A Bit of Personal History

The work presented in this playbook builds on several years of my experience. Most of this results from my current work as a Chief Architect at AVIV Group and previous works as a Principal Architect for eBay Classifieds and Adevinta.

Another vital part of my experience that shaped this playbook was my earlier experience as a consultant and analyst at the Software Improvement Group. I’ve learned the value and pragmatics of data-informed decision-making. As a spin-off of this work, I’ve also built tools called Sokrates, which enable efficient and pragmatic extraction of data about technology and organization from source code. This work has directly influenced my view on the architecture data pillar.

Lastly, my experience as a CTO of Incision, a startup, has helped me better understand the difficulties and pragmatics of creating and running an IT organization.

Why This Playbook?

This playbook generalize my experiences in a written form. I have written these articles for two reasons. Firstly, the act of writing helps me to clarify and improve my ideas (Figure 1). Borrowing from Gregor Hohpe, I free up some brain cells to learn new things with every sentence I write. As nicely described by Hohpe written word has distinct advantages over the spoken word:

  • it scales: you can address a broad audience without gathering them all in one (virtual) room at the same time
  • it’s fast to process: people read 2-3 times faster than they can listen
  • it can be easily searched or versioned.

Figure 1: Writing a book helped me organize ideas, obtain new insights, improve principles and tools, and share the lessons learned.

Second, by generalizing and putting my experiences on paper, I hope to create more usable materials to help others in similar situations. I also expect helpful feedback from a broader community by sharing these materials.

A Part of the Bigger Picture: A Trilogy in Four Parts

This book is a part of the collection of open-source tools and resources I have built in the past ten years to help me in architectural work (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Grounded Architecture is a part of the collection of open-source tools and resources I have built in the past ten years to help me in architectural work.

The other three tools include:

  • Sokrates: is an open-source source code analysis tool that implements my vision of documenting and analyzing software architectures of complex systems. Sokrates provides a pragmatic, inexpensive way to extract rich data from source code repositories—no need for lengthy interviews and workshops. Just bring the code. Sokrates can help you understand your code by making visible the size, complexity, and coupling of software and all people interactions and team topologies.
  • Productivity Tools: for years I have been building simple personal productivity and other tools. This site organizes and shares them for free. I use many of them in my daily work as an architect.
  • 359° Overview of Tech Trends is my collection of knowledge resources with the most recent articles, podcasts, and videos from over 20 authoritative, high-quality sources (IEEE, ACM, GOTO Conf, SE Radio, Martin Fowler’s site, Ph.D. Theses). Architects need to learn fast, and finding good knowledge sources in the see of articles and posts takes work.

You can find more details about these tools at my homepage obren.io.

Who Should Read This Playbook?

When writing this playbook, I had a broad audience in my mind. The article should be helpful to both technical and non-technical people. I hope the article can help developers and IT architects better understand their value and place in a broader organization and collaboration possibilities with peers. I also hope the articles can show the non-technical audience, such as people with finance, marketing, and C-level management backgrounds, the benefits of staying close to and well-connected with the “engine room.”

The Structure of the Site

I have organized the playbook into several main parts. In this introductory part, I describe the context in which my ideas have developed.

In the second part, I discuss the Grounded Architecture approach describing its three elements: the data pillar, the people pillar, and the technology Architecture Activities Platform.

In the third part, I talk about the Reflections of Grounded Architecture.

I conclude with a summary and pointers to external resources for those who want to explore more.

Acknowledgments

Gregor Hohpe’s Architecture Elevator view of architecture has heavily inspired my work. In many ways, my work reflects the lessons learned from blindly implementing Gregor’s ideas in practice.

I want to help all eBay Classifieds Virtual Architecture Team (VAT) members and AVIV Group’s Architecture Center of Excellence members who gave me invaluable feedback and discussions. Lastly, thank Peter Maas and Brent McLean for sponsoring and pushing for developing data-informed architecture in our organizations.

Introduction
Context: Fast Moving Global Organizations →