Home > Architecture Advantage, Complexity, Uncategorized > Reducing Complexity thru The Architecture Advantage

Reducing Complexity thru The Architecture Advantage

One of the principles of Excellence by Design is called “The Architecture Advantage”.  It promotes the idea that just as  excellence is rooted in great design, great design is rooted in great architecture.  This truth is apparent all around us, as we encounter the products and services of life.  Those that seem to work well are usually well architected (if one cares to look deep).  It is also true that most that work poorly are in some part, based on poor architecture (although there are a vast number of other reasons they may perform poorly).

Another perspective on this truth on the value and advantage of architecture comes from an unlikely source.  The book ‘The Invisible Edge’ focuses on the value of intellectual property as a strategic tool.  My experience has been that too often IP is seen simply as a ownership issue, and more is better.  The book does  good job explaining what makes good IP.  The chapter labeled ‘Simplify’ provides the Architectural perspective. It provides 40 pages of very insightful reading.

It starts by describing the danger of business complexity: “Complexity can kill a business.  It saps energy. It increases transaction costs.  It erodes focus.  It distracts attention.  Complexity, though, is the inevitable outcome of the kind of economic interdependency that characterizes our modern economy….businesses need to make deliberate choices to reduce it.”

The book then answers the question (and in a way, demonstrates ‘Excellence by Design’) by stating how: “Design strategies lie at the heart of meaningful simplification.” What is really illuminating is that the book respects the importance of good design (and in their focus, IP strategies related to that design) in achieving simplification.  In fact they state “simplification strategies are rarely easy to pull off; in fact, executing a successful simplification strategy can be the hardest challenge of all.”

This advice is true for all aspects of a business including product complexity, process complexity, marketing complexity, human resources management complexity, supply chain complexity, etc.  Again the authors are right on when they state “Important design choices can be made at every level of aggregation, from the smallest detail of a product’s architecture, to the design of the manufacturing floor, all the way to the design of the organization, and even to the design of the entire network of relationships in the business ecosystem”.

What makes this point so valuable and related to the ExD principle of ‘The Architecture Advantage” is the fact that the book pays homage to the role and importance of architecture as the key to good design and valuable IP that drives simplification and reduces complexity.

Easily said but as a colleague of mine is fond of saying; architecting and designing well is not a job for amateurs.  The book goes to provide an excellent discussion of what architecture is and what characteristics are found in ‘good architecture’.  Is covers several examples and discusses the tension between having architectural features that are more ‘closed/controlling’ versus ‘open/collaborative’.

A most eloquent quote in this chapter sums it up brilliantly.  “Some of the most powerful and sophisticated strategies in modern business involve alignment of IP and design strategies behind a new architecture that breaks the compromise between complete control and overly complex collaboration…strategies like this simplify by rejecting complexity instead of redesigning it.”

Clearly there is an Architecture Advantage to Excellence by Design.

  1. Rusty Lamont
    February 8, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Couldn’t agree more. Complexity arises as very bright, highly-motivated people improve the world around them in an uncoordinated and energetic manner. Architecture based design addresses sub-otimization and moves away from IP that captures a collection of unintended consequences. I’ve been involved with business transformation with the ITIL framework for two years and see the rapid adoption of a set of integrated best practices as an architecture/business design play. Looking forward to reading the book and following the blog…

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