Disciplined Agile

Prove Architecture Early

This Construction process goal describes how our team will ensure that our architectural strategy works. To be effective, we need to consider two important questions:

  • How will we validate/test that our strategy works as required?
  • How will we verify that our architecture assets are sufficient?
2021 Project Management Institute Prove Architecture Early v5.2 Validate the Architecture End-to-end working skeleton Architecture spikes Proof of concept (PoC) Solution bake-off Pilot test the solution Review the Architecture Stakeholder demos Informal reviews Formal reviews

Figure 1. The Prove Architecture Early process goal diagram (click to enlarge)

You can use the DA Browser to learn more about the options in the goal diagram of Figure 1. 

Why This is Important

There are several reasons why this goal is important:

  1. Reduces technical risk. There is a big difference between thinking that our architecture works and knowing that it does. This is particularly important when we are making significant architectural decisions, typically during the first release of a solution or when we are reworking or replacing important aspects of an existing solution. By addressing architecturally risky functionality early in the life cycle, we reduce the overall risk profile of our endeavor. Figure 2 shows the risk profile of a typical DA team following one of the project-based life cycles. It shows how the risk on a DA team drops substantially early in Construction due to proving the architecture (ideally with working code).
  2. Increases the chance the team is aligned. By proving that the architecture works in practice we will remove many, if not all, of the doubts that people may have about our strategy.
  3. Supports appropriate governance. As you can see in Figure 2, there is an explicit Proven Architecture milestone built into the DA project lifecycles to validate that your architectural strategy is likely to work in practice. Risk-based milestones are an important part of DA’s lean governance strategy.
  4. Reduces political risk. When a team is perceived as low risk, particularly when we’ve taken concrete steps to address the risks that we face, an interesting side effect is that it makes it difficult for any detractors to attack the work that we’re doing. In short, we’re not an easy target for them.
Risk Value

Figure 2. Decreasing risk and increasing value throughout a disciplined agile project (click diagram to expand)

Key Points

  • Building a “walking skeleton” of a solution by prioritizing architecturally risky functionality and implementing it first will pay down most, if not all, of the technical risk faced by a team.
  • Reviewing architecture models or documents is an ineffective strategy for mitigating architectural risk.