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Linda Northrop Software Architecture Award Keynote: Adapting Architecture Practices to Changing Times—From What to Why and Back Again

May 2016 Presentation
Eltjo Poort (CGI)

CGI developed the Risk- and Cost-Driven Architecture (RCDA) approach to help architects manage the risks and costs associated with complex systems.


Software Engineering Institute



In 1996, Mary Shaw and David Garlan effectively established software architecture as a systematic discipline to reason about software at a higher level of abstraction. Less than a decade later, the architecture discipline came under severe attack by the Agile movement. In the first decade of the millennium, many perceived up-front design as wasteful and obstructing agility. Before answering questions about what makes a good architecture, architects were forced to consider why architecture was needed in the first place. The answer emerged (like many good architectures) in the years that followed. It became clear that under some conditions, developing software without proper architecture can be very risky and costly. Nowadays, the relationships among risk, cost, and architecture are firmly established.  Architecture is needed to manage risk and cost associated with complex systems, answering the why question and giving a basis for new answers to the how and what of architecture practice. At CGI, we collected these answers in our Risk- and Cost-Driven Architecture (RCDA) approach. This talk is about how we did this, the results we observed, and the challenges ahead.