Architect Driven Development, or ADD (just add the H in the appropriate place for most of us), is my new methodology of choice. In the large Enterprise context, where Agile is difficult to implement across many teams, ADD hits the gap by positioning the Architect to enforce the development methodology as well as the software architecture. Let’s face it, as Architects we end up being the people that, at least at first, are ensuring the development methodology is followed.
In the Enterprise context where there are numerous teams spread across many mini-empires, one of the few roles that can be consistent is the Architect. In my role at Best Buy, I run a 70 person development team. That team is broken into eight different workstreams all lead by top tier architects. As long as the architect team is aligned on both a methodology and high level architecture goals, we get consistent results from our teams. It helps a lot that we all believe in Agile self-managed teams as it gives the developers the freedom to do the work how the team sees fit. But the architects carry the consistency through the development process from start to finish.
There are also a couple hundred developers working on various parts of BestBuy.com that are not under architect control yet. These teams are largely driven by outsourcers who have a vested interest in keeping Best Buy architects away from their work. If we were there, they wouldn’t get to staff their $200/hr architect on the team or their 10 offshore counterparts. The problem here is the outsourced architect is not on board with our development methodology or high level goals, and given our structure there’s little incentive for them to even care.
So as we strategized how to get better control over the dotcom platform, I put forth that as long as we controlled the architects and the process, nothing else mattered. Inherent in that control is control of resources as well. Since our hiring standards are tough, we only get top notch developers which makes everything else easier. But without a strong architect voice to push a methodology, pick resources and keep the architecture vision, the process would fail.
Next time you are thinking about restructuring your development environment, stop thinking about what methodology you’re PMO is going to use and start thinking about getting strong technical architects to carry the vision and methodology. You’ll find that the rest of the process falls into place afterwards.