• September 3, 2014

Sound Architecture Drives Business Value

Good architecture is key to sustained business value generation. To ensure success, be determined and compelled to pay attention to architecting things in structurally sound ways. What does this mean? Think of a building. When you design a structure, sound architecture provides for the flexibility for a three-story or five-story building from a one-story foundation. When architected properly, additions to the building can be logically incorporated as needed.

Enterprises should also architect for the future. While the future is beset with unknowns, you can impose architecture with the stipulation that you will not allow unknowns to control you beyond your desire to be controlled. The original Southwest Airlines technical and business architecture was (and still is) a stellar example of an architecture that effectively copes with unknowns. The core of this architecture is the constraining of decisions, configurations, and choices. First, Southwest deployed a single type of aircraft so that virtually every airplane in its fleet uses the same parts and maintenance processes. This dramatically reduces downtime and operating costs.

Second, Southwest eliminated the option of reserved seating. The airline knows passengers will take their seats more quickly when seats are not assigned. By creating an architecture that constrained choices, Southwest was able to wring incredible efficiencies from their business. The company used this architecture to create a well-run, profitable business in an industry riddled with losses.

Limit Technology Architecture

This approach to architecture can be found in the technology sector as well. Apple built a solid business by constraining choices and the ability of users to configure its operating system. It’s also present in the software and platform as-a-service models. For example, Hewlett Packard Enterprise is developing services that are configured to order as opposed to built to order. If a client wants a customized product or service, a technology provider can always create it if given enough time and resources.

But what if the service provider offers a solution with a limited number of effective configurations? It’s highly probable that most of these customers would be satisfied with a solution that imposed constraints. That configure-to-order approach allows the provider to operate more efficiently while saving the client a significant amount of money because the client is constrained.

Organizational architecture is as important as product architecture. In fact, bad organizational architecture will prevent you from creating good products. When the personal computer market was adolescent, it was said that it was possible to determine the architecture of an organization by glimpsing the architecture of the motherboards it produced.

To drive value and realize success, it’s important to architect everything: teams, processes, and products. Architect solidly and flexibly, but execute quickly. That’s the key to driving performance and business value.