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Transforming into a digital organization involves more than the deployment of new digital systems. It also requires changing the way an organization acquires, delivers and operates its systems.
In the past, all of the processes involved in managing systems operated via top-down, gate-controlled governance. Today, they increasingly rely on collaboration rather than control, and, as a result, have become more responsive to business and technology changes. This fundamental change in systems management is necessary to achieve business agility, and it has had a profound impact on the digital architecture discipline.
It aligns closely with this new way of working, transforming the architecture function of organizations worldwide. Learn more
Over the years, CGI’s architects have developed and extensively validated four key principles that make up our RCDA architectural approach and help organizations become effective at agile architecture.
The quicker we receive feedback on an architecture, the faster we learn about its effect within a specific solution context.
Architecture is a matter of reducing uncertainty by gathering knowledge and making decisions, and a shorter architecture feedback loop speeds up that uncertainty reduction, leading to better architectures.
On top of this, shorter loops lead to shorter reaction times when things change, which increases business agility.
A key benefit of using a short feedback cycle in handling a backlog of architectural concerns is that we can quickly reprioritize the architecture work when circumstances change.
Most of our attention should focus on concerns that have the highest business impact. This impact can consist of enabling new business value and opportunities, but very often it is about risk and cost control. This is why RCDA originally stood for Risk and Cost Driven Architecture.
How do we determine the right amount of architecture?
According to the first principle above, architecture is a flow of architectural decisions made as part of a short feedback loop. This flow should be ahead of solution development and delivery with “just enough” anticipation.
The Scaled Agile Framework® uses the metaphor of a runway that is continuously being extended while in operation, so that it is always just long enough to accommodate the new planes that are anticipated (the planes in the metaphor are upcoming solution requirements). The new, bigger planes can land only after the runway’s extension. Dependency analysis determines which runway extensions are required to land which planes. Sometimes you may temporarily extend the runway with an inferior material for the sake of speed.
This represents technical debt that you will need to repay (repave) at some point to prevent accidents. You should base all decisions (when to extend or repave the runway) on sound economic reasoning.
Depending on their appetite for central coordination (often driven by the complexity of their digital needs), digital leaders may have dedicated architect roles or no architects at all.
Organizations apply RCDA practices by embedding the principles of agile architecture into their ways of working, irrespective of whether they have "architects, “architecture owners” on teams, or "crowdsourced" architectural decisions. A key consideration is that the consequences of architectural decisions affect the delivery (agile or DevOps) teams, not as commands from a higher authority, but as user and enabler stories that extend the architecture runway with “just enough” anticipation.
RCDA is an approach that has helped large organizations across the globe modernize their architectures. Its benefits include:
Every organization is different, and the steps for improving your architecture will be specific to your organizational context, history and goals. Here is a high-level view of what your RCDA journey could look like.
More than 1,500 architects and other stakeholders worldwide have experienced the benefits of RCDA by taking CGI’s RCDA training. This training is available in three programs:
All RCDA teachers are experienced, practicing architects. We provide training remotely or onsite.