This article wraps up our series on solution architecture risk and addresses the critical value of understanding and leveraging risk for better solution architecture. You can learn the basics in the other articles in this series: a primer on solution architecture risks, strategies for identifying solution architecture risk, and a method for managing a solution architecture risk register.
Competing forces pull a solution architecture design in different directions.
It is important to weigh them all when designing a solution:
Not only do these forces pull the design in different directions, but usually addressing one requires trade-offs in another. For instance, a lower-risk solution architecture increases the cost or implementation time for the solution.
Management puts pressure on the cost and time concerns, and for the customers (internal or external), it's all about the functionality. As a result, functionality, cost, and time are usually top of mind for all people involved in designing and delivering a new solution. Risk, if discussed at all, tends to be focused on risks impacting project or agile pod delivery, which makes sense: the primary responsibility of the people who lead implementations is to deliver. In that role, functionality, cost, time, and delivery risk are critical concerns.
Solution architecture design involves making decisions by evaluating technology solution options to make the best architecture design choices. Usually, when an architect advocates for a better choice, what they mean - unless that choice costs less, is quicker to implement, or provides more functionality - is that it results in lower risk. If a solution architect is proposing a solution that is not (1) cheaper, (2) faster to implement, (3) more functional, or (4) lower risk, then the architect needs to step back and evaluate why they are proposing that solution in the first place. Either it isn't the right solution, or they aren't thinking comprehensively about the four forces.
Highlighting the risks to advocate for a better design can be a very powerful approach.
In any of these cases, the solution architect is leveraging risk to improve the outcome of the design.
We feel strongly about leveraging risk for better solution architecture. Driving decisions with analysis and clear risk identification can shift conversations from emotional to fact-based which results in better decisions and better architectures.
I want to close by highlighting some key points:
If you haven't already, you may want to check out the foundational articles in this risk series:
Good luck driving better design, and please contact us if you think we can be of any assistance!