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IN THIS SECTION, YOU WILL: Understand what this book is about and how to use it.


  • 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 call this approach “Grounded Architecture”—architecture with strong foundations and deep roots.
  • Prioritizing people interactions and data over processes and tools, Grounded Architecture aims to connect architecture practice to all organizational levels as an antidote to the “ivory tower” architecture.
  • I also explain my motivation to write this book.

This book shares my approach to running an IT architecture practice in larger organizations based on my experience at AVIV Group, eBay Classifieds, and Adevinta. I call this approach “Grounded Architecture“—architecture with strong foundations and deep roots. Prioritizing people interactions and data over processes and tools, Grounded Architecture aims to connect architecture practice to all organizational parts and levels, serving as an antidote to the “ivory tower” architecture.

I use the name Grounded Architecture, drawing a parallel with the Grounded Theory methodology. Grounded Theory emphasizes grounding the development of theories and concepts directly in the empirical data collected from real-world observations and experiences. The term “grounded” refers to the idea that the theory is firmly rooted in the data and is not based on preconceived hypotheses or existing theoretical frameworks. The theory is not developed in advance but emerges from the data as it is analyzed.

Similarly, I wanted to create an approach to architecture practice that is more empirical and firmly rooted in data. An architecture practice that is not developed in advance based on abstract principles and frameworks but emerges and adapts based on empirical evidence.

This book introduces Grounded Architecture as an IT architecture practice with two main parts:

  • Structure, elements you need to have to run Grounded Architecture practice, and
  • Guiding Principles, guiding principles that can help put the ideas of Grounded Architecture into practice.

Figure 1 shows the structure of the Grounded Architecture consisting of three elements:

Figure 1: The structure of Grounded Architecture.

The Data Foundation ensures that architects can make data-informed decisions based on a real-time and complete overview of the organization’s technology landscape.

The People Foundation is another essential element of Grounded Architecture. A strong network of people doing architecture across the organization is crucial to ensure that architecture function has any tangible impact.

Lastly, the Architecture Activities Platform defines a set of processes and agreements enabling architects to do everything architecture typically does, leveraging data and People Foundations to create a data-informed, organization-wide impact.

As a part of my work on Grounded Architecture, I also provide several guiding principles and tools that I found helpful to introduce the ideas of Grounded Architecture in practice. I grouped these resources into two parts:

The rest of this book will explain in detail the Grounded Architecture approach. In this section, I want to tell a few things about my motivation to write this book.

What Will You Learn?

The three parts of the book (Structure, Being an Architect, and Doing Architecture) correspond to the aspects of work of Chief Architects or Heads of Architecture that need to set up and run modern IT architecture practices:

  • Create organizational and technical structures to support IT architecture work,
  • Define IT architecture roles and responsibilities, skills, and career paths,
  • Operate effective IT architecture practice in complex multicultural organizations.

General Philosophy

I approach designing an architecture practice in complex organizations as an art of cooking. Modern IT architecture practice is highly adaptive, and applying complex frameworks and models is not practical and effective. You cannot easily copy an approach from one organization to another. Consequently, I have organized this book into modules you can mix together in your context, similar to how a chef may use ingredients in a recipe to create specific outcomes. I share some of the lessons and tips on “cooking,” but you must find your way in your “kitchen.” You may reuse some of the ingredients and recipes from this book. You may not need some of this book’s ingredients. And you will need many more from other sources.

When I start an architecture practice, I view myself as a chef who joins a new restaurant and brings their favorite spices to enhance local dishes. I incorporate core preferred elements and foundational frameworks like essential culinary spices and tools. However, the true essence of the architecture, akin to the unique flavor of a dish, is derived from local factors. In an organization, these local elements are the people: the in-house talent and culture that shape the enterprise’s distinct identity. Their knowledge and capabilities are the key ingredients that make the architecture truly effective.

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While basic structures and practices may be consistent across various business scenarios, the most crucial aspects—like fresh, local ingredients in cooking—need to be locally sourced. Skills, experiences, and insights of the organization’s staff play a pivotal role in customizing and refining it to meet specific business needs and goals. They make the architecture truly tailored and effective.


I have organized my lessons and insights in a form that, if you recognize the problems and are inspired by solutions, could use as a high-level “playbook” about how to work as an architect or run an architecture practice. I also provide more concrete tips on each discussed topic, finishing each section with questions you should consider when addressing these topics.


This book is not technical. We will not discuss the details of public cloud design patterns, security, reliability, how to optimize computer loads, or select the proper data storage. As a modern architect, you will need these skills, of course, but there are already many great resources for them. This book is about expanding your horizons to apply your technical skills in complex organizations. Or to broaden your horizons as a head or manager of architects, to organize and support architects to use their technical skills more effectively as a team.

Is This A Proven Method?

Like with many similar books, you may be disappointed if you are looking for a scientifically proven “method” of running a modern architecture practice. This book is personal and opinionated, building on my daily experiences as an architect and head of an architecture practice. While subjective, I believe this book can provide valuable insights for IT architects, their managers, and people working with architects. I have successfully applied my approach in three different companies, which gives it some generality and repeatability.

I invite others to share the lessons they have learned similarly. Even if opinionated and limited in scope, such practical reflections based on concrete examples have much more value for practitioners than abstract debates, formal methods, or academic analyses.

Who Should Read This Book?

When writing this book, I had a broad audience in my mind. The article should be helpful to both technical and non-technical people. The book can help IT architects to better understand their value and place in a broader organization. I also hope the articles show the wider audience the benefits of staying close to and well-connected with architects.

Key Influences

The Grounded Architecture approach also builds on many ideas others have successfully used. Gregor Hohpe’s Architecture Elevator view of architecture has heavily inspired my work. In many ways, my work reflects the lessons learned from implementing Gregor’s ideas in practice. Gregor described modern architects’ functions as aligning organization and technology, reducing friction, and charting transformation journeys. Such modern architects ride the Architect Elevator from the penthouse, where the business strategy is set, to the engine room, where engineers implement enabling technologies.

In my quest to define modern architectural roles, I used Staff+ Engineering jobs as an inspiration for the development of architects. Tanya Reilly’s book The Staff Engineer’s Path and Will Larson’s book Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track are helpful guides in defining the responsibilities of modern architects. Overall, the Staff-plus engineering roles provide excellent examples for the development of architects.

Many other sources have influenced my work. Some of them you can find in the Bookshelf section.

Why This Book?

This book generalizes my experiences in a written form. I have written these articles for several reasons. Firstly, the act of writing helps me to clarify and improve my ideas (Figure 2). As Gregor Hohpe once noted, I free up some brain cells to learn new things with every sentence I write.

Figure 2: Writing a book helped me organize ideas, obtain new insights, improve principles and tools, and share the lessons learned.

I also needed this book for the education of architects and to increase awareness about modern architecture practices in organizations I worked in. Having written content can significantly help to spread the message. 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.

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

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 3).

Figure 3: 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 resources include:

  • Sokrates: an open-source polyglot code analysis tool. Sokrates provides a pragmatic, inexpensive way to extract rich data from source code repositories. Sokrates can help you understand your code by making the size, complexity, and coupling of software, people interactions, and team topologies visible.
  • Productivity Tools: A collection of more than 100 online tools I built to help me in my daily work as an architect.
  • 359° Overview of Tech Trends is my collection of knowledge resources with 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 is difficult.

You can find more details about these tools on my homepage

A Bit of Personal History

The work presented in this book builds on several years of my experience. Most of this work originates 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 book 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 a tool called Sokrates, which enables efficient and pragmatic extraction of data about technology and organization from source code. This work has directly influenced my view of the architecture Data Foundation.

My experience as a CTO of Incision, a startup, has helped me better understand the challenges of creating and running an IT organization.

My experience as a researcher at Dutch Center for Computer Science and Mathematics (CWI) and Eindhoven Technical University (TU/e) provided me with a valuable background to do rigorous data analyses and research. From this research period, I want to highlight a collection of essays, Design Instability, that I co-authored with Erik Stolterman, where we connected experiences of designing/architecting in three disciplines: classical design, UX design, and software engineering. This work has helped me better relate to and learn from non-technical fields.

Lastly, my hands-on experience as a software developer has proven invaluable for my work as an architect.

The Structure of the Book

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

In the second part, I discuss the Grounded Architecture structure describing its three elements: the Data Foundation, the People Foundation, and the Architecture Activities Platform.

In the third part, I discuss the Guiding Principles of Grounded Architecture, grouped into two sections: Being an Architect and Doing Architecture.

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

The bookshelf section shows many other books and resources that have influenced my approach and ideas.

I invite you to read this book from beginning to end, following the progression from data and basic structures to management and organizational topics. However, you can also browse the text and start reading whatever interests you. I use many illustrations to create easy-to-remember pictures that you can associate with discussed topics, making the book usable across your organization as a coffee table book, serving as an inspiration, or sparking discussions.

Stay Connected

You can find additional resources online at:

Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn to see what I am up to:


Thank all AVIV Group’s Architecture Center of Excellence members and eBay Classifieds Virtual Architecture Team (VAT) 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.

The cover image is a photo of Nesciobrug. Credit: the botster, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Image by henk monster cc by 3 0 via wikimedia commons
Context: Fast-Moving Global Organizations →