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Agile makes Architecture redundant – or essential?

Consider the purest form of an Agile project. The requirements (user stories, use cases – use your favourite term) are clearly defined, all of the skills required are embedded in the team, everyone is in the same location – there are no barriers to delivery! The team can be freed from the bureaucratic shackles of traditional models and cut working code! That is, after all, what Agile methods are about – rapid delivery of tight, clean code that works. This week's edition isn't about debating the viability of the Agile manifesto, rather it's about considering how to scale a larger project (even programme) which leverages the benefits of the Agile approach without descending in to chaos. Now think about a larger programme of work: it's too large for a single team to deliver in the timescale, so is split into a number of workstreams, each delivering a part of the whole. Now there is a need for more detailed definition of the environment into which the teams are delivering, including but by no means limited to – user authentication, authorisation, accounting, auditing and profile management – data formats and communication – functional interfaces between components and models – data storage definition, access and control – consistency of user interface and user experience The role of the architect re-emerges here, as the overall visionary and coordinator helping to set direction and priority for the delivery teams, and to make sure everyone is working towards the common goal. Perhaps most crucially of all, the architect must take ownership of the idenitification of technology risks that need to be front-loaded. Major design choices (coding language? SOA framework? Data storage?) must be settled early, and any potential risks mitigated before the delivery teams build up a large body of work which would be difficult – and expensive – to change later on. The architect must learn to move away from delivering a vision that, once defined, is relatively static to a framework that still has a firm foundation identified in the beginning but refines and evolves as the project or programme proceeds.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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