In the Architecture Office #8: Don’t dive deep unless you have to


Per1Previously in the Architecture Practice: Chief architect Herbert Birchbranch (called Herb in the text) turned into problems when he realized that a common perception among the technicians was that architecture is just a recommendation, something you care about if you want. One of the solutions to the problem was to involve the technicians in the architecture work.

A dilemma

After a year in his role as chief architect, Herb still is struggling in creating throughput of architecture deliverables. On one hand a consistent model for architecture description has been defined. On the other the change pace in the organization is overwhelming. The architects are frustrated. They don’t have time to finish their architecture work. Herb is frustrated because his team delivers to less. The earlier perception that the architects are doing almost nothing of value was starting to grow again.

How shall we be able to deliver architecture under these circumstances, Herb asked himself and the team. What a dilemma.

We have to calibrate our ambitions!

The team didn’t have any suggestions for solution. Most of them had lately done a TOGAF course and had a view of how architecture work has to be carried out.

We have to be pragmatic, Herb said to the team. Think! What is best, delivering no architecture or delivering architecture in a lighter fashion, Herb asked. We have to calibrate our ambitions!

Herb went home and started to think about the issue. The next day he gathered his team and presented his thoughts.

The way of working with architecture has to be related to a strategy of ambition. We always strive to work with architecture in an anticipative way, doing architecture pro-actively and with considerable depth, he said. Though, we have to consider situations where we deviate from that principle. There are two very different situations that require other strategies that tells us to lower the ambition; Offensive and Defensive strategy for architecture ambition. Defensive is when the change pace is low due to extreme cost saving, for example when a company are for sale. Offensive is the situation when an organization has to speed up the change speed. Examples of reasons for this are heavy growth strategy and heavy regulation pressure.

We are clearly under an offensive strategy, Herb told his team, and they agreed.

Architecture fashion light

Herb continued the discussion with his team. Think about it, what is the lowest level of architecture that still makes sense and support our quality objectives? After an hour of discussions they all agreed that the lowest level of ambition for architecture is:

  • Principles
  • Reference architectures
  • Policies (decided technology for building blocks in the reference architecture)

Principles, reference architectures and policies form a kind of scope corridor towards the desired future situation. We may not provide support for best solutions from quality perspective, but we will still direct towards the vision even if the road gets windy, Herb said.


I some cases we have to go deeper. These cases have to be clearly known in advance and are carefully selected.


A pragmatic way of work with architecture is necessary for all architecture practices.

We continuously have to maintain our capabilities to provide architecture that makes sense with a limited capacity.

The sense moral of the story above is that a foundation of useful principles, reference architectures and policies despite of situation always should be the focus and baseline. When it is necessary, of clear large value, and we have time, then we detail our enterprise architecture.

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