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IN THIS SECTION, YOU WILL: Understand the value that architecture practice based on the ideas of Grounded Architecture can create for an organization.

KEY POINTS:

  • When a Grounded Architecture structure is in place, it can positively transform an organization’s functioning.
  • These impact categories are Executing At Scale, Improving the Quality of Decision-Making with Data, Maximizing Organizational Alignment & Learning, and Higher Adaptivity.


When a Grounded Architecture structure is in place, it can positively transform an organization’s functioning. These categories of impact, aligned with defined goals, are:

  • Enabling Execution of Architecture Function At Scale,
  • Increasing Architecture Function Adaptivity,
  • Improving the Quality of Decision-Making with Data,
  • Maximizing Organizational Alignment, and
  • Maximizing Organizational Learning.


Executing at Scale

Our first goal was to find a way to support hundreds of teams and thousands of projects with significant complexity and diversity.

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Each element of Grounded Architecture enables architecture function to operate at scale in several ways.

Data Foundation

The Data Foundation can support large-scale operations by:

  • Self-Service Data Access: Providing data as a self-service resource allows teams to access the information they need independently, reducing the reliance on manual sharing methods. This can be facilitated through internal websites or portals where data tools and insights are readily available.
  • Elimination of Meetings: We significantly reduced the need for numerous information-sharing or data-gathering meetings using automated data tools (every time we added a new data app, I got a few hours back in my calendar and had fewer Slack messages). This reduction saves time and ensures that data is consistently up-to-date and accessible.
  • Automation: Automation minimizes manual effort, which is crucial as manual processes do not scale efficiently. Automating data management processes ensures that data can be collected, processed, and analyzed without extensive human intervention.

People Foundation

The People Foundation enhances execution at scale by focusing on:

  • Developing Connections: Building strong relationships at all levels of the organization is crucial. This network facilitates quicker alignment of objectives, efficient information sharing, and swift execution of shared decisions.
  • Speeding Up Alignment: Effective communication channels and collaborative tools help align teams rapidly, ensuring everyone is on the same page and working towards common goals.
  • Facilitating Shared Decisions: Enabling a culture where shared decisions are made quickly can enhance the responsiveness and adaptability of the organization.

Architecture Activities Platform

The Architecture Activities Platform promotes scalability by:

  • Distributed Decision-Making: Encouraging organizational decision-making prevents bottlenecks associated with centralized decision-making processes. This empowers more people to take ownership and make decisions within their scope, leading to faster and more effective outcomes.
  • Promoting a Collaborative Operating Model: An operating model that supports distributed decision-making and collaboration ensures that the organization can handle more projects simultaneously without overburdening any single entity or individual.

By leveraging these foundations, we managed the complexities and diversity of numerous projects and teams more efficiently, ensuring scalability and effective execution.


Adaptivity

The second goal, ensuring that architectural functions can adapt quickly to stay relevant in new contexts, is crucial for maintaining an organization’s agility and resilience.


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The Grounded Architecture structure has core elements that provide a highly flexible and adaptive setting. Here are the key drivers of flexibility within this structure:

Data Foundation

The Data Foundation can support adaptability by:

  • Automation and Extensibility: We could swiftly extend and reconfigure our data infrastructure by implementing a highly automated Data Foundation to accommodate changes. For example, this could involve integrating new source code repositories and data sources following acquisitions or mergers. Automation ensures that data remains relevant and up-to-date, providing essential connections and feedback tailored to the organization’s evolving needs.
  • Configurable Adaptation to Organizational Changes: A robust Data Foundation adapts its views to the changing realities of different parts of the organization, ensuring that data insights are always aligned with current operational contexts.

People Foundation

The People Foundation can support adaptability by:

  • Capacity Redistribution: The People Foundation, through a central team, can alleviate the temporary capacity shortages experienced by distributed teams. This ensures that architectural functions continue to operate smoothly even during periods of high demand or limited resources.
  • Decentralized Support: By maintaining a network of well-connected architects, the architecture function can support the organization effectively without relying solely on a central team. This decentralization fosters resilience and adaptability, enabling architectural guidance and oversight across various teams and projects.

Architecture Activities Platform

The Architecture Activities Platform can support adaptability by:

  • Flexible Decision-Making: The Architecture Activities Platform supports adaptivity by promoting a flexible setting and distributing decision-making authority throughout the company. This distribution helps prevent the architecture function from becoming a bottleneck or a single point of failure.
  • Delegation of Architectural Decisions: Senior architects can delegate most architectural decisions to teams, allowing them to focus on critical strategic initiatives. This includes defining cloud, data, or platform strategies and supporting significant decisions related to mergers and acquisitions.

By grounding the architecture with data and people connections, organizations empower senior architects to concentrate on high-impact areas. This structure enhances the architectural function’s flexibility and adaptivity. It ensured we could respond promptly and effectively to new challenges and opportunities.


Improving the Quality of Decision-Making with Data

The third goal stated that we need tools and mechanisms to make a decision process more data-informed and less dependent on opinions. There are significant benefits to making our decision process as much as possible data-driven. Architectural discussions can be heated and opinionated, not leading to the best arguments and decisions.


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To make the decision process more data-informed and less dependent on opinions, we need to focus on the interplay between three foundational elements. These elements collectively create a robust framework for data-driven decision-making in architectural discussions.

Data Foundation

The Data Foundation ensures the availability and readiness of data needed for decisions, fueling data-informed discussions and decision-making via:

  • Data Collection: Systematically gather high-quality data on relevant internal and external technology developments.
  • Data Management: Maintain a well-organized and easily accessible database that supports quickly retrieving relevant data.
  • Data Analytics: Employ advanced analytics tools to process and interpret the data, providing meaningful insights to support decisions.
  • Real-Time Data Availability: Ensure that data is updated regularly and available in real-time to inform ongoing discussions and decisions.

People Foundation

Data is not enough; you need to make this data available to and used by critical people. The People Foundation ensures people are available and well-connected to share information and make decisions via:

  • Expert Network: Establish and maintain a network of knowledgeable experts and stakeholders who can provide insights on various architectural aspects.
  • Collaboration Tools: Implement collaboration tools that facilitate seamless communication and information sharing among team members.
  • Training and Development: Provide training programs to enhance the data literacy and analytical skills of architects and decision-makers.
  • Engagement Practices: Develop practices for regularly engaging stakeholders and ensuring their input is considered in decision-making.

Architecture Activities Platform

The Architecture Activities Platform provides processes that enable architects to move from opinion-based decisions to data-driven economic risk modeling via:

  • Process Implementation: Implement processes that guide architects in dismantling hype and buzzwords, presenting problems clearly, and making data-driven decisions.
  • Data Integration: Develop methodologies for integrating relevant data into discussions, ensuring that data supports and guides the conversation.
  • Economic Risk Modeling: Create models that translate drivers and data into economic risk assessments, helping to identify the best solutions for the given business context.
  • Decision Support Tools: Deploy tools and technologies that assist in visualizing data, modeling risks, and objectively evaluating options.

Focusing on these foundational elements and their key actions can transform our architectural discussions into a more data-informed process. This focus ultimately led us to better, more objective decision-making that aligns with our business context and goals.


Maximizing Organizational Alignment

The fourth goal emphasizes that the architecture function should be a cohesive factor in minimizing misalignments within large organizations.

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Misalignments often occur in such settings due to various factors, including complex structures and diverse objectives. However, a well-grounded architecture can address and reduce these misalignments through its foundations.

The Data Foundation

The Data Foundation improves organization alignment by creating transparency. By establishing a robust data foundation, organizations can enhance transparency, which is necessary for building trust and facilitating alignment. This involves making data easily accessible and understandable across different departments, ensuring everyone has the same information and can make informed decisions. Transparent data practices help align objectives and actions, reducing the chances of misalignment.

The People Foundation

The People Foundation improves organization alignment by facilitating collaboration. The People Foundation focuses on developing global structures that connect employees across various functions and geographies. By making it easier for people to collaborate, share knowledge, and work together, this foundation helps create a unified approach to organizational goals. Collaborative environments foster alignment by ensuring that everyone is working towards common objectives.

The Architecture Activities Platform

The Architecture Activities Platform improves organization alignment by:

  • Facilitating pre-decision alignment via collaborative decision-making. This platform plays a pivotal role in minimizing misalignments by enabling individuals and teams working on similar projects or topics to identify each other and collaborate. This early alignment minimizes duplication of efforts and optimizes resource utilization, ensuring that efforts are aligned from the outset.
  • Facilitating post-decision dissemination via knowledge sharing and more awareness. After decisions are made, the platform ensures that these decisions are communicated across the organization. This widespread dissemination helps all parts of the organization benefit from the insights and lessons learned from one unit, leading to more cohesive and aligned operations.

An architecture function can reduce misalignments and drive a more unified, efficient, and aligned organization by integrating data transparency, enhanced collaboration, and structured processes for decision-making and dissemination.


Maximizing Organizational Learning

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” – Fred Brooks

” I expect you to learn to be better each day. I challenge you to look at each working day as an opportunity to learn more and, by doing so, to grow as a person.” – L. David Marquet

The last goal is that architecture should help organizations learn quickly, stay up-to-date with emerging technologies and industry trends, and recommend technology upgrades. Learning is one of the primary daily tasks of architects. Architects must proactively identify relevant new technology developments and create pragmatic technology recommendations for concrete platforms across the organization based on their understanding.


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The Grounded Architecture structure offers comprehensive support through its Data Foundation, People Foundation, and Architecture Activities Platform to help organizations learn quickly, stay up-to-date with emerging technologies, and recommend technology upgrades.

Data Foundation

The Data Foundation plays a pivotal role in accelerating the learning and adoption of new technologies. Here’s how:

  • Facilitating Exploration and Reflection: The Data Foundation enables individuals and teams to explore new tools and technologies effectively by providing relevant and comprehensive data. Access to this data allows for thorough experimentation, analysis of outcomes, and reflection, which is crucial for understanding and refining new technology implementations. For instance, it may not be easy to calculate the cost of a new cloud service. However, running proofs-of-concept and analyzing collected data can provide good insights.
  • Supporting Informed Decision-Making: Architects and teams can make informed decisions regarding technology adoption and upgrades with up-to-date data. This minimizes the risk associated with implementing new technologies and ensures that the choices are based on solid evidence and insights.

People Foundation

The People Foundation enhances learning by creating and maintaining a culture of knowledge sharing. It achieves this through:

  • Spaces for Sharing Knowledge: Regular update calls, knowledge-sharing sessions, and conferences are organized to facilitate the exchange of architectural and technological knowledge. These events are critical for informing the organization about the latest developments and best practices.
  • Maximizing Personal Learning: The People Foundation ensures that individual lessons are transformed into shared guidelines by deriving generalized insights from cross-group cases. This collective intelligence benefits the entire organization and fosters continuous personal and professional growth among team members.

Architecture Activities Platform

The Architecture Activities Platform integrates learning into daily workflows through structured processes:

  • Embedding Learning into Processes: Learning is accelerated by embedding it into the organization’s processes. This is achieved by defining and distributing knowledge-sharing and lesson-learned processes across the organization. By doing so, learning becomes a seamless part of daily activities rather than an additional task.
  • Systematic Knowledge Capture and Application: The platform ensures that knowledge is systematically captured, shared, and applied. This approach minimizes overhead while maximizing learning opportunities, enabling the organization to quickly adapt and apply new insights and technologies.

By leveraging the Data Foundation, People Foundation, and Architecture Activities Platform, the Grounded Architecture structure ensures that learning is continuous, efficient, and embedded within the organization’s fabric. This comprehensive support system helps organizations stay up-to-date with emerging technologies and industry trends and fosters a proactive learning environment that drives innovation and growth.


Questions to Consider

It is always essential to be thoughtful about the value and impact of your work. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How effective is your organization’s current architectural function at scale? How valuable could principles of Grounded Architecture be in enhancing its efficiency?
  • To what extent does your organization use data to inform architectural decisions? What steps could you take to move your organization from opinion-based to more data-driven decision-making?
  • How well-aligned are the different areas within your organization, and how does this affect your architectural function? Could the Data and People Foundations principles be utilized to improve alignment?
  • What strategies does your organization currently have to foster organizational learning? How could the methods described in the Grounded Architecture model enhance this?
  • How quickly can your organization adopt and utilize new technologies? How could your architecture practice accelerate this process?
  • Consider the adaptivity of your organization’s architectural function. How could your architecture practice improve it?
  • Reflecting on the value of the “Data Foundation” concept, how effectively is your organization tracking changes or supporting what-if scenarios analysis?
  • What role do most senior architects play in your organization? Could their time be better utilized on strategic initiatives?
  • How sustainable is the architectural function in your organization in the absence of a strong central team? Could implementing a Data Foundation and well-connected architects help mitigate this?
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