Technology Strategy Patterns: Architecture as Strategy

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Architect and Strategist

Three Concerns of the Architect

  • Three primary concerns of the architect:
    1. Contain entropy.
    2. Specify the nonfunctional requirements.
    3. Determine trade-offs.
  • The architect defines standards, conventions, and toolsets for teams to use. These are common practices, and generally idiosyncratic to any given organization. As application or solution architects, they help within a system, within an ecosystem, and across an organization to create a common set of practices for developers that help things both go quicker and be more understandable and maintainable.
  • The architect who is containing entropy is stating a vision around which to rally; showing a path in a roadmap; garnering support for that vision through communication of guidelines and standards; and creating clarity to ensure efficiency of execution and that you are doing the right things and doing things right.
  • The architect is responsible for specifying how the system will realize the functional and nonfunctional requirements in its construction. In order to do so, she must write a document that specifies how these will be realized. This document, the architecture definition, serves as the technologist’s answer to the blueprint. It should be structured in four broad categories to include business, application, data, and infrastructure perspectives, and expressed with clarity and decisiveness, using primarily testable statements as valid propositions (which we’ll examine in the next chapter) and math.
  • The role of the architect is to see where those challenges may lurk, seek to make them explicit, and make value judgments about how to balance the solutions and the new problems they occasion, under the guidance of the broader business strategy.

Logical Architecture of the Creation Patterns


  • It stands for “Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive,” and dictates the relation of the content, but not the format, of your lists.
  • Dictates the relation of the content, but not the format, of your lists.
  • Lists are the raw material of strategy and technology architecture.
  • In a properly conceived list, two things are crystal clear: who the audience is and why they care. You can determine who your audience is by asking the following key questions:
    • Upon reading this list, can the audience make a decision they could not make before having the information in the list?
    • Upon reading the list, can the audience now go do something they could not have known to do before?
  • Each entry in the list is mutually exclusive of every other one. There is no overlap in their content.
  • The elements in the list, when taken together as a collection, entirely define the category. No item is left out, leaving an incomplete definition. Thus, the list is collectively exhaustive.
  • A good rule of thumb is to find the level of abstraction that keeps your lists in categories of three or five items.

Logic Tree

  • The tree branches out as a decomposition of the problem you are starting with. Collect possible root causes into groups, using the MECE technique, and then break them down into subgroups.
  • The output of a Logic Tree exercise is a diagram.
  • You will use Logic Trees in two ways. The first is for determining the problem. These are called Diagnostic Logic Trees. The second is for determining the solution set, called Solution Logic Trees. Either way, you are following the same method with the same type of diagram as output.
    • Diagnostic Logic Trees attempt to determine the applicable subcategories of problems and a root cause. They answer the question of why the issue has occurred.
    • Solution Logic Trees are a way of representing possible solutions or courses of action to address a problem. They answer the question of how to proceed. You create this kind of tree after making the Diagnostic Logic Tree.


  • A hypothesis is a starting point for an investigation. When you hypothesize, you make a claim about why something might be the case, based on limited data, to offer an explanation or a path forward. You wouldn’t make a proposition about something you are certain of. You may not have enough evidence yet to even convince you that it’s true. But making such a claim puts a stake in the ground that suggests a path for focused analysis. In philosophy of logic, a proposition takes the basic form P → Q, meaning “if P, then Q.”

  • Hypothesizing (asking the right questions) tends to mean we start by asking these five key questions:

    1. What is the conjunct of propositions that describe the problem?
    2. What semantics characterize these propositions?
    3. What are the possible outcomes?
    4. What are the probabilities of each of these outcomes coming true?
    5. What “ease and impact” scoring values suggest the right strategy?

World Context

  • Understanding the context and the language in which the business operates will give you a terrific boost in making your architectural recommendations best support your organization.
  • If you are in a position to make strategy recommendations in your organization, I’m sorry to tell you, but you are already a businessperson.


  • You use a PESTEL analysis to answer this question: What strategic direction is suggested by the current and anticipated Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, and Legal climates?
  • PESTEL offers a simple, memorable framework with which to analyze the key drivers of change in the context in which your business operates.
  • Making your PESTEL document is much like writing a concise, high-level research paper at school.
  • First, you’ll want to have the PESTEL document yourself so you can refer back to it later as you continue applying other patterns to create your strategies. Its primary purpose is as a reference and contextual guide for you in executing the next stages of your strategy creation.

Scenario Planning

  • Of the many strategies in the world, the default strategy is consistently the “Do Nothing” strategy. Maintaining the status quo — the Do Nothing strategy — is far and away the dominant strategy of people and corporations.
  • There are two problems with this strategy. The first is that it creates optimism bias. Worse, it deepens our belief in established and familiar patterns, enervating our ability to perceive change and anticipate the unexpected. People assume the future will look like the past.
  • Instead, can you ask “What if?”
  • Scenario Planning is an an organized way of asking the question “What if — ?”
  • This is one basic format for conducting Scenario Planning in your organization. It starts with the consulting group conducting a lot of research and interviewing key members of the leadership team. This process takes several weeks. Then the group schedules a two- or three-day workshop for the leadership team, and gives us a presentation for an hour or so that represents its findings and hypotheses. This serves as a starting point and level setting for the exercise. Then we break into small groups, generate a bunch of scenarios, and work through a variety of them to imagine how they might play out. We then reconvene to distill the ideas down to a few that sound interesting and important. You can do this with a private voting round. Then with the remaining few, we divide into teams to figure out good arguments for why our scenario should be the one to win. The leadership takes this as input and thinks about it. As a result of this workshop, my company’s leadership at the time decided to go into an adjacent line of business and buy a company. That’s the basic process you can use for Scenario Planning.
  • There’s also nothing here specific to technology. During the workshop you want to:
    • Review all the trends out in the world that could affect your company’s business.
    • Create a list of the trends with your estimation of the impact.
    • Build the scenarios together as a list.
    • Assess the impact of each scenario. Develop alternate paths for each as in a Logic Tree. Do not give too much weight to things that seem very improbable.
  • That said, Scenario Planning does create value in these ways:
    1. It exercises your imaginative muscles.
    2. It helps you to perceive change and be agile in adapting to it.
    3. It gives your team a (fair) perception that your company is thinking ahead and thinking objectively in order to plan properly to take advantage of opportunities and stave off adversaries.

Futures Funnel

  • The Futures Funnel pattern is closely related to Scenario Planning (see “Scenario Planning”), and is really just a visual representation of the final, distilled outcome of that work.


  • We know what forecasting is: you start in the present and try to look into the future and imagine what it will be like.
  • Backcasting is the opposite: you state your desired vision of the future as if it’s already happened, and then work backward to imagine the practices, policies, programs, tools, training, and people who worked in concert in a hypothetical past (which takes place in the future) to get you there.
  • In any forecast (or backcast), there are two kinds of variables: dependent and independent.
    • Dependent variables are the unknowns, the moving parts that you want to ascribe an outcome to in order to engineer a strategy toward making that outcome more probable.
    • Independent variables are controlled by the strategist, and make up the levers that you can pull to try to change your outcome.
  • Here are the steps in the backcasting process:
    1. With your architecture, strategy, and product teams together, create a simple vision of the Beautiful Future. Do not give consideration to today’s circumstances, or how achievable it might be, just where you want to be.
    2. Hypothesize the immediately prior necessary state: those things that have to happen before the next moment can happen are called antecedents. They are the necessary condition for the next state to obtain.
    3. Then, once you have hypothesized the array of antecedents to the end state, you repeat the process to hypothesize the antecedent to that antecedent and so on, until you work your way back to the current state.
  • When you are performing this tracing back, keep in mind what would have to change with people, processes, and technology in each of the three steps. You cannot typically change one of those elements without incurring at least some impact on the others. Thinking of only one of these categories will result in myopia, and a failed strategy.

Industry Context


  • SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It gives you a view of these in a single slide.
  • You can conduct a SWOT analysis in three easy steps: Conduct interviews with people at different levels in the organization and in different departments and roles. Ask them what they think your strengths are as an organization; what gives you competitive advantage; what people, process, and technology you have that makes a difference and helps you win in the market. Then ask them what your weaknesses are in people, process, and technology within the organization. Ask them what they see as new, different, innovative things the organization could be doing and where there is an underserved market, stubborn competitor that perhaps you could topple, or similar business you can serve. Record their responses in a list organized into those four categories, with tags for “internal” (forces within your organization), and “external” (forces outside your organization). Reduce the list into the most important elements, removing duplicates and overly anecdotal or biased items.
  • These ideas are organized through two lenses, or across two axes: placement and potential. Placement is either inside your company or outside it. Potential refers to whether it’s harmful or helpful.
    • Strengths: these are internal, helpful things.
    • Weaknesses: these are the internal, harmful things.
    • Opportunities: these are external things that can potentially help you if you can figure out how to prioritize and take advantage of them.
    • Threats: these are external things that you can’t control and must survey, understand, and determine how to shore up a defense for.

Porter’s Five Forces

  • Threat of New Entrants: this is the set of risks presented by new competitors entering your market.
  • Ease of Substitution: a substitute product uses a different technology to try to solve the same economic need. Factors to consider include:
  • Bargaining Power of Customers: how much power do your customers have in the relationship? What is the degree to which they can influence or dramatically change your business?
  • Bargaining Power of Suppliers: suppliers are the organizations that provide your company with the raw materials, components, labor, and services so that you can create your product. Suppliers can wield considerable power, depending on the dynamics of the industry, particularly where there are few substitutes, and the resources or talents are unique.
  • Industry Rivalry: it is about how the public perceives a product and distinguishes it from that of the competitors. A business must be aware of its competitors’ marketing strategy and pricing and also be reactive to any changes made.

Ansoff Growth Matrix

  • It’s about four different ways you can grow the business.
  • Market penetration strategy: in the bottom left is the set of products that you have currently and the current markets in which they’re selling. With these products, you are trying as a product manager to figure out how to gain market share.
  • Market development strategy: moving up, develop new markets to sell your existing products in. This means that you don’t necessarily have to change the products but instead sell them to a different kind of customer as a substitute for existing products in those markets, or begin selling in new countries, which may mean you have to adapt them.
  • Product development strategy: create new products in current markets.
  • Diversification strategy: develop new products in new markets. This is quite risky and expensive.

Stakeholder Alignment

  • The way to be successful in a company is to do something that matters to someone who matters.
  • Projects that don’t matter to the people who matter are misaligned. These projects will keep you employed for a short time perhaps, but they are not likely to complete, and will not advance your organization or your career.
  • To gain support for your strategy, you must have alignment from only three groups of people:
    • The people who will pay for it and stand on a stage and tell others that it’s important (your leaders, the executive team).
    • The people who will execute it, and need to understand it well enough to care about it and execute it properly (your teams, the individual contributors doing the work).
    • The people who will ignore or undermine it if their views, aspirations, and concerns aren’t represented (your peers).


  • RACI is an acronym originating at the Project Management Institute (PMI). It stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. These are classifications for the participants in your project.
  • Responsible: these people do the hands-on work to complete this task. Depending on the nature of the items in your work list, this can be any level of title.
  • Accountable: these people are answerable to executives for this item being delivered on time with appropriate fitness and quality. May be a VP or director.
  • *Consulted**: these are subject matter experts on some aspect of the system. They are not directly on the hook for doing the work. They may make local decisions or certain aspects that you seek them out for. They’ll give advice such that their ideas will change your work, the design, or otherwise modify your strategy. Identifying the right consulted on a project is the difference between a lot of buy-in and a robust product, and something more tepid. If you are making new software,
  • Informed: this is a one-way street. You update these people on project status, and they don’t have a say or a recommendation about the work you are doing and can’t change it. This category might include the VP of tax so that he’s aware of your project and can look you up when it’s time

Value Chain

  • One purpose of the Value Chain is to help you understand where your bread is buttered. That is, it divides the world into value creation and support to illuminate where value is created and where it isn’t. You should be crystal clear on what your company does to create value, what products they sell, and to whom.