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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Neil Ward-Dutton

I'm passionate about helping organisations get real business benefits from the investments they want to make in IT. I love technology, and I've seen it used to amazing effect - but I hate waste, and I've seen so many organisations waste their investments. Over the past 10 years as the Research Director at MWD Advisors I've gained invaluable experience working with clients across many industries, learning about what works and where people come unstuck in trying to drive business change with technology. I've advised on technology strategy and business change management across Europe, and presented at dozens of conferences on these topics around the world.

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