Want Stellar Software Architecture? Learn the surprisingly simple secret.

Want Stellar Software Architecture? Learn the surprisingly simple secret.

Want Stellar Software Architecture? Learn the surprisingly simple secret.

Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash


Architecture is the structural foundation of your software.

The structure of any system guides assembly processes while determining the longevity of what you construct.

But how do you know if your architecture is good? How can you be sure that it won’t fall apart under stress? That it can stand up to abuse and change? Will it meet the needs of your customers? Not only today but far into the future?

  • Poor software design decisions create brittle, complex, and convoluted code.
  • Poorly designed systems decay rapidly, killing products.
  • Unmaintained systems clog, slowing development velocity to a trickle.

“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus

Without design, maintenance, and preparation for future change, your costs to change software escalate rapidly. At a certain point, they’ll explode past the value of making a change, meaning:

  • You can’t extend your system
  • You can’t adapt.
  • You struggle to keep your system alive.

Not only that, but a poor-quality system kills agility, regardless of your process.

It’s like owning an auto manufacturing plant, where the cars keep falling apart during construction, causing headaches and slowing or stopping your assembly line.

Even worse, you’ll scrap your products sooner and rebuild them from scratch to ensure survival for your company.

Poor architecture puts any project at risk of technical failure. You can’t keep up with competitors who offer superior solutions to your customers. And your company sees shrinking margins because your total cost of ownership explodes.

It doesn’t sound fun, does it?

When done right, good software architecture improves your success rates.

You have a modular system where it’s easier to reuse code. Maintenance, adaptation, and new features come faster. You keep customers happy. You outpace your competitors.

The only constant in software is also “change.” Any software system providing value must extend, adjust, and adapt to meet changing customer needs.

Hardware is when you set your system in stone. It serves one and only one purpose. It does not change.

But your software is a living organism.

You need to nurture it. You need to care for it. And it requires the ability to adapt.

Here’s the thing: Your system is on the road to extinction when it becomes fossilized by the inability to change.

Are you a developer getting started in the field? Are you an experienced coder looking to take your skills up a notch?

Either way, learn to assess the quality of your software architecture. It’s a game-changer for your career.

And you’re in luck. There’s a simple secret. Dave Thomas gave us a guide.

But first, let’s visit good vs. bad architecture.

What Makes Good Architecture?

Good architecture means your system blueprint maximizes long-term sustainability.

  • Your maintenance is less painful.
  • Understanding your code base is simpler.
  • You drive down the costs and time to change your code.

Good architecture requires planning for extensions. You can accommodate significant changes in your project’s requirements and pivot with minimal rework.

It’s also maintainable. Your code stays healthy. So the speed of providing value to customers remains strong without deteriorating.

Finally, good architecture promotes change. You plan to integrate new tools and technologies over the lifespan of your project.

Still not sure if your architecture is “good”?

Study your system’s quality, extensibility, and maintainability.

What Makes Bad Architecture?

Unfortunately, lousy architecture is more prevalent than good architecture today. And it’s one of the biggest problems plaguing the software industry today.

Here are the problems:

  • Insufficient architecture produces code with poor extensibility, maintainability, and modifiability. You’ll see higher failure rates, more expensive maintenance, and be swimming upstream against the tide of change.
  • Inadequate architecture is the driving force behind technical debt. Your total cost of ownership for systems exponentially explodes as they degrade.
  • Poor architecture is expensive to change because it lacks structure, clarity, and modularity. You’ll spend unnecessary time and money redoing prior work, refactoring, and retesting.

Lack of forethought, planning, and design makes owning systems expensive. You want consistency, transparency, and quality to be affordable.

It’s hard to adapt your systems when

  • Inadequate preparation for future changes requires design decisions and implementation to be reanalyzed, rethought and rebuilt at every step.
  • High coupling and a lack of encapsulation cause your engineers unnecessary suffering as the blast radius of change explodes, causing chain reactions of unintended side effects.
  • You lock yourself into earlier decisions, technologies, or processes, which means you’re not agile.

If you’re ever in doubt about your architecture, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it lack clarity, structure, or modularity?
  • Is it hard to maintain because of poor code quality and anemic documentation?
  • Does it lack encapsulation, consistency, or clarity?
  • And does it depend too much on a single technology or process?

If so, beware. You may have a lousy architecture tripwire in your product portfolio. If triggered, it can blow up in your face.

Want to protect yourself?

Here’s a simple rule to help.

The “Dave Thomas” Rule of Thumb

Dave Thomas was an original contributor to the Agile Manifesto over twenty years ago, which powered the agile software revolution, launching modern software production forward.

Engineers recognize software is different, and we can do better. So, in 2001, we moved past the bygone era of making software the way we created hardware.

Dave’s simple rule of thumb: “Good design makes future change easier than bad design.”

Prepare by designing for future change with an extensible, maintainable, and adaptable architecture.

With every line of code pushed, choose the path that makes future change more manageable.

Following this rule means you don’t back yourself into a corner. You don’t shoot yourself in the foot. And you push back the need for crippling rebuilds.

While Dave’s rule of thumb is simple, it is remarkably potent.

This idea sums up the core principles of good design. It helps you assess your architecture’s quality. You can now spot grave decisions and identify ways to improve them.

Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy. You’ll likely need to invest in your teams’ know-how and knowledge to realize the benefits fully.

Key Takeaways

  • Bad architecture fuels cancerous code, crippling your extensibility, maintainability, and modifiability.
  • Bad architecture is the primary driver of technical debt.
  • Bad architecture causes products, companies, and careers to crash and burn.

You have good architecture when your blueprints

  • maximize code reuse,
  • enable faster maintenance,
  • and improve team coordination.

The “Dave Thomas” Rule of Thumb is a helpful guide, giving you a straightforward path to maximize agility with every decision. It helps you produce extensible, maintainable, and adaptable systems.

Use this “agility measuring stick” to help:

  • Analyze your architecture’s quality
  • Spot bad architecture
  • And identify ways to improve it.

As a software team leader, architect, or engineering manager, understanding the difference between good and bad architecture is essential.

Want more success with your products, teams, and career?

Take Dave’s simple agile rule to heart.


By the way,

Do you want to be sure that your code is structurally sound?

Truth Shield design services will help you establish an architecture that will stand the test of time.

We’ll work with you to meet your goals while creating a blueprint for success.

Our team of experts can help you avoid common pitfalls. Ensure your software is ready for anything.

Click here now and mention this article for a free one-hour consultation with one of our experts!


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Want Stellar Software Architecture? Learn the surprisingly simple secret.

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