As an architect involved in an agile implementation (my current gig), you can imagine how interested I was to see that there’s a new book on Agile Architecture, and perhaps how disappointed I was to see that it focused on SOA and Cloud.  That’s not to put down SOA or the cloud.  I’m a huge fan of both.  But it wasn’t the area of agility that I was hoping that a book, with that title, would address.  The misunderstanding was mine, not the authors.  I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m sure I will.

That moment of misunderstanding crystallized a thought: how even a two word phrase like “agile architecture” had two completely different meanings.  The opening scene of the movie “The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey,” puts a rather humorous twist on this idea, when Gandalf introduces himself to Bilbo Baggins (who has apparently forgotten having met him as a boy).

Bilbo: Good Morning

Gandalf: What do you mean? Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not;

Bilbo: <stunned silence>

Gandalf: Or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?

Bilbo: All of them at once, I suppose.

Of course, in Enterprise Architecture, we have the same problem.  Does Enterprise Architecture mean “the practice of using technology architecture at an enterprise-wide scale,” or does it mean “the practice of using architectural ideas to shape the enterprise itself?”

And after a bit of stunned silence, perhaps it means

“Creating an architecture to describe the externalities of an enterprise to set its context and improve the relationships it has with customers, partners, and suppliers?”

All of them at once, I suppose.

Having just re-watched the Hobbit movie on my morning flight, these bits connected up in my head.

I’m proud to be both an architect of agility (applying the principles of agility to the processes of a business so that the business achieves the ability to change its own processes in response to agile demands), as well as a person who can craft technology architecture that reflects the notion of agility itself (technology that can be set up to change rapidly in response to business events).

All of them at once, I suppose.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

3 thoughts on “AGILE architecture vs. agile ARCHITECTURE”
  1. Perhaps you should read the book! I wouldn't say it "focuses" on SOA and Cloud, but rather considers them along with many other trends in Enterprise IT that are prompting entirely new approaches to architecture for achieving greater business agility. Since you call yourself an architect of agility this book should be right up your alley!

  2. Hi Nick

    I would be interested to read your experiences in working on an Agile Team….what were the challenges, what understandings and actions help the team really gel and produce fast and high quality. In your experience how long does it take for a team to mature, that is really begin to work together?    Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

four × three =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.