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The Influential Architect: Succeeding at Scale Among Fully Autonomous Teams

May 2017 Presentation
Sebastian von Conrad (Envato)

In a company at scale with many fully autonomous and agile development teams, the architect's role is more about preventing entropy than about setting direction.


Software Engineering Institute




Being the only software architect in a company with many fully autonomous and agile development teams can be exasperating. The role looks simple on paper: drive good, technical solutions to business problems. But with so much going on at any given moment and constant iteration, affecting outcomes across the organization is impossible. If you can't even keep up, how can you meaningfully engage in the decision-making process? In this environment, "command-and-control"-style architects encounter significant opposition and find themselves ineffective. Instead, let's explore a different approach. The Influential Architect is fusion of advisor, mentor, facilitator, communicator, and storyteller. As an Influential Architect, our aim is to improve outcomes across the organization without it becoming reliant on us to make key decisions. To achieve this, we must change the level of abstraction: where previously our purview has been decisions, we must now focus on people. In this talk, we'll explore what it means to be an Influential Architect, as well as some of the tools and techniques we can use to succeed. We'll cover transparent decision making, technical vision, visual storytelling, architecture principles, sensible defaults, strategic thinking, team suitability, architect suitability, and evaluating outcomes.