The value of a technical architect in software development is generally understood. It is natural – indeed, proper – to see a project team construct under the supervision of an architect.

Traditionally, enterprise, system, and solution architects advised on system design, functionality, system interfaces, and technology up front. One of the initial elements in the design process is architecture, which establishes rules and guidelines for the project team to follow during delivery. Architects are increasingly staying involved throughout the construction phase of a project, and even during testing and implementation.

And, historically, there has been a stigma attached to an architect’s participation in a project – that they are not pragmatic, that their ideal system design views are too idealistic, expensive, and unrealistic, and so on. Despite this, the architect remains an important function in software development — and for good reason.

Project roles and responsibilities have aligned to work with the new ways of working since the introduction of Agile. The technical architect plays a similar duty.

Agile has transformed the way architects collaborate with and lead teams. While the relationship has evolved, it has not vanished — and for good reason. In this article, we’ll look at seven key scenarios in which the technical architect can help an Agile project team succeed.

#1 – Transform requirements into a logical functional map

Requirements gathering in an Agile environment is a collaborative effort comprising the Product Owner/Manager, BA, Architect, and Technical SMEs. That’s how it should be.

The agile manner of working requires that requirements be evaluated as soon as they leave the office, at the very least at a high level. This helps your team to evaluate the feasibility and short- and long-term advantages of suggested needs, as well as the effect and alignment of solution options with the enterprise and supporting systems.

In these endeavors, the architect is beginning to play an increasingly important role.

The Functional Decomposition exercise that teams (must) complete at the Project Initiation phase is a good example. Each demand is picked up by the architect and mapped to a logical functional component of the proposed system, or its support systems, that would fulfil the requirement.

For example, if you’re talking about the requirements for a messaging engine that creates messages for customers based on triggers and rules, a business rules repository will be one of the components. The Functional Decomposition exercise will reveal the rules repository’s purpose and characteristics, as well as how it interacts with other messaging engine components such as the decision engine, message template repository, customer preferences database, and other systems.

This exercise will highlight the architect’s expertise and experience as they guide the requirements debate toward a feasible end-product design. To understand why the architect is the best.

#2 – Guide in-sprint technical discussions

Agile initiatives, by their very nature, tend to think only one or two sprints ahead. Agile team members run the risk of creating too tactically or with the wrong system design, resulting in a jumbled solution that, while satisfying sprint or scrum objectives, does not scale or integrate effectively over time.

This is because Agile teams don’t have to (or sometimes don’t want to) think about their sprint deliverables in terms of the system and its impact on its broader ecosystem. The architect can steer the team closer to the enterprise and system architecture by directing sprint-level technical conversations. This entails frequently updating and modifying the solution architecture document.

#3 – Provide enterprise context to any conversation

Architects typically work on a variety of projects or system areas, giving them a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in your company. When they’re able to lead project talks and provide the team some context for why a specific strategy is right or wrong from an enterprise standpoint, this expertise becomes invaluable.

This capacity to direct individual projects toward a bigger overall aim will help your team and your company as a whole, enhancing harmony and decreasing waste.

#4 – Participate in pre-sprint planning sessions

Conducting some advance planning for the next several sprints is a best practice for Agile projects. This allows architects to examine the work required to meet the sprint’s objectives ahead of time. Examining the scope of a future sprint now allows them to spot any flaws or misalignments between the solution in development and its source architecture.

Any such difficulties are easier to rectify or plan for before the sprint begins if they are detected early on.

#5 – Participate in backlog grooming sessions

Another Agile technique is to groom the product and release backlogs on a regular basis, in which the BA, product owner, scrum master, lead engineer, test manager, and architect meet to review the work that has been completed so far and what is still on the release backlog or product backlog. Grooming, which should be done every other sprint or somewhat less frequently, will assist the scrum team re-align to current priorities and allow the core team to take a critical look at project progress.

Any grooming session requires the architect to steer the debate toward a workable solution architecture – since everything we’ve talked thus far will be put to use to make the exercise a success.

#6 – Lead Architecture spikes

During a sprint, a small group of experts on a particular field work behind the scenes to find a solution to any pressing issues. Agile projects, like any other issue or concern that requires a spike, can schedule Architecture spikes. There could be a variety of reasons why a project needs one.

For example, your mobile app project might decide to move away from developing distinct apps for iOS and Android in the middle of development and instead focus on cross-platform app development. Technical architects are well-suited to lead this endeavor, as such discussions entail a lot of rethinking about the app’s present and new architecture, as well as how the work done thus far has to be redirected.

#7 – Mentoring/disseminating architecture skills to your team

Any project or business faces a significant difficulty in forming effective Agile teams. Add to it critical thinking skills training for your team while analyzing functional and technical scope. Architects, by virtue of their leading role, provide implicit training to scrum teams on how to approach requirements and solution discussions, as well as helping the team internalize some of their own architecture abilities over time.

While this does not eliminate the need for architects, it does assist the team in learning to consider how each decision they make affects the project’s success or failure.

In summary

I’ve given you seven additional strong reasons why you need an architect to support your team on a daily basis, whether you’re managing an Agile project or not. Architects, who are by nature ever-smiling and friendly (I know, I’m building a stereotype! ), provide the calm yet strong counsel needed to steer your project away from turbulent waters and into more tranquil waters.

Next time you’re conducting a project conversation, listen calmly when one of them clears their throat and gently disagrees with you. They might well be the difference between disaster and success for your project.

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