There’s a straight line between strong decision-making and good software architecture

Thoughtful and effective decision-making was a key trend at the O’Reilly Software Architecture Conference in Berlin 2019.

By Chris Guzikowski
November 18, 2019
O'Reilly Software Architecture Conference in Berlin 2019 O'Reilly Software Architecture Conference in Berlin 2019

The ability to make good decisions might be the most important aspect of a software architecture practitioner’s job. Every day…every week…every month, you make critical architectural decisions. Since the architecture reflects the overall business, it’s fair to say that every successful business has a good architecture, and that every good architecture can be traced to proper decisions that its keepers made. Conversely, bad software architecture decisions have the potential to leave an organization hamstrung for years.

A few sessions at the recent O’Reilly Software Architecture Conference in Berlin accurately reflected how we aim to help our attendees improve their decision-making skills through our software architecture events.

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Birgitta Boeckeler of ThoughtWorks offered an incredibly thought-provoking keynote on cognitive bias. Boeckler’s insight helped our audience recognize that, more often than not, key choices aren’t black and white. There are grey areas, and we can make better decisions by taking the time to embrace our doubts. “Doubt actually helps us learn and be creative,” she said. Her message stressed that we can ultimately become more confident by differentiating decisions and outcomes, and thinking explicitly about trade-offs. “It’s sometimes worth listening to the person who says ‘I’m not sure.’ They might have a better drive to see the objective truth, and make better decisions.” This was sage decision-oriented advice for all levels of architect.

Agile and architecture expert Allen Holub began his keynote by banging the drum for change. He pointed out that culture, process, organizational structure, systems architecture, and the physical plant are very much intertwined, and a determination to change any of those five elements means that all of them have to adapt. “These are all tightly connected,” said Holub. “There is no way you can change only one of them and get anything successful.” By not addressing all of these elements, failure usually follows. Only by being aware of these interdependencies, can our audience effectively make the decision to implement change.

Lastly, decision-making was in full view at our regular Architectural Katas event. Although active participation was limited to six teams of five, there were more than 200 participants. The five teams contemplated specific architectural problems in a contest while others chatted, observed, and questioned the approaches. Their decisions—made under time pressure—were put on very public display. After each team presented its strategy, a panel of judges selected the winning team. These Katas participants displayed an inherent desire to hone their decision-making skills, and the courage to have them judged. It’s impressive that so many would conduct such hard work for nothing more than the enriching experience, but it seems they recognize the Katas event was a workshop for decision-making.

Do you feel like you missed out on a chance to improve your decision-making skills? Not to worry! Full sessions and keynotes from this event will be available on the O’Reilly Learning Platform in the coming weeks. While the Berlin event represented the third instance of the Software Architecture Conference in 2019, there are three more events planned in 2020: February in New York, June in Santa Clara, CA, and November in Berlin.

Post topics: Software Architecture