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  • Writer's pictureBrian McColgan

Business needs / technology continuum...

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Technology solution providers, particularly those supporting complex cyber-physical products/services (CPS) constantly being challenged to juggle needs of the business with the ability for a product/service to function and live another day. This is often referred to by technologists as intentional architecture.

What is intentional architecture?

Most technology organizations focus exclusively on short-term solutions delivery, which leads to large amounts of tech-debt, and narrows options tech-teams have to apply and share solutions to other problem domains. Intentional architecture describes strategies and initiatives to achieve a desired future state, while enhancing solutions that support a broader set of use-cases and continue to meet current design, performance criteria.

How does intentional architecture differ from a business request?

A business request describes a product or service need that provides a business outcome or result. In some instances, business requests may originate from a well-defined strategy, while others may occur because of emergent design – e.g., a capability visualized while solution being built, validated, or released.

For example, a business need for autonomous vehicles (AVs) may include voice-active (in-cabin) concierge service for AV passengers. Concierge service could help passengers establish 1+ waypoints for their journey – e.g., visit retail stores, restaurant, points-of-interest, etc.

A need such as the one in our example above - clearly has value. More specifically, it results in higher profit margins ($$) for our business while providing a tailor-made journey for AV customers. This type of request likely to be considered high priority on behalf of business stakeholders!

Why then must organizations that build CPP/S, balance business service needs with intentional architecture?

One approach for responding to this question is to pose another question.


What might happen, if our organization ignored intentional altogether - and focused exclusively on the delivery of business requests?

If our solution and problem space remained never changed, focusing exclusively on business needs may be a suitable path forward. Unfortunately, that is seldom what occurs in reality!

Continuing our AV example - if AV concierge became hugely popular, it is likely our stakeholders would need to support other scenarios or expand the technologies capabilities. Our business stakeholders notify the technology teams of their plan to expand AV concierge to new countries it sells AV vehicles. This includes China, Mexico, South America.

These potentially un-anticipated requests may impact our ability as technology solution providers, to respond and quickly adapt our solution to these new capabilities. All while continuing to provide a seamless Customer experience.

From this example, it is easier for us to better visualize intentional architecture. The amount of intentional architecture to be applied is an economic consideration – i.e., value/benefits of investing time/effort now vs. defer or set aside. There are trade-offs that may require us to defer – e.g., our product needs to go to market ASAP, otherwise the company faces dire economic consequences.

What to do?

Communicate! Stakeholders and technology team principals must have conversations covering the following, on an ongoing basis:

  1. Assess business need vs. intentional architecture - involves the business and technology identifying and assessing risk of invest-now vs. defer.

  2. Business must challenge the technology team principals on whether incremental effort vs. going all-in on a particular enablement aspect - can be applied to markedly improve a solutions usability, design, and performance.

  3. Utilize the organizations dedication to continuous exploration. Run experiments during a work-segment (e.g. sprint) to help uncover/clarify risk and to myth-bust pre-conceived notions and/or assumptions.

How well is your org balancing business need vs. intentional architecture?

Please let ALT Technologies know in the comments below.

Does your CPS organization face similar challenges? Please reach out and let us know!

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