Survey says… solution architecture works!

We all know that solution architecture adds value to business and IT solutions, but as Philippe Kruchten writes on his blog, we sometimes have trouble quantifying the benefits towards (project) managers or product owners. I recently ran into Raymond Slot’s PhD thesis titled “A method for valuing architecture-based businesstransformation and measuring the value of solutions architecture”, and was amazed by the resounding results he presents in it. Raymond did a thorough analysis of a survey of 49 software development projects between €50,000 and €2,500,000. He concludes that use of solution architecture correlates with the following effects:

  1. 19% decrease in project budget overrun
  2. Increased predictability of project budget planning, which decreases the percentage of projects with large budget overruns from 38% to 13%
  3. 40% decrease in project time overrun
  4. Increased customer satisfaction, with 0.5 to 1 point – on a scale of 1 to 5
  5. 10% increase of results delivered
  6. Increased technical fit of the project results

At first sight, these correlations already look pretty good, but if you read Raymond’s thesis, you see that the underlying numbers are even better. For example, the decrease in project budget overrun is presented as a percentage of the total budget. The expected overrun decreases from 22% to 3% – a factor 7 improvement!

The other results have equally interesting background data:

  • Better predictability of solution costing by a factor 3, specifically associated with the presence of an architect during calculation of the technical price, and with the quality of the solution (project) architecture.
  • The 40% decrease in project time overrun (c) is also much better than it looks, since it is stated as a percentage of project duration. Factors 6x-10x improvement of overrun are associated with the quality of the architecture and informal architecture compliance testing.
  • Increased customer satisfaction (d) is specifically associated with the quality of the architecture, and with matching the seniority level of the architect to the complexity of the project.
  • The increased technical fit (f) refers to better fulfillment of non-functional requirements, and is specifically associated with the quality of the project architecture.

In short, this research shows there are tremendous benefits to using solution architecture. The (b) effect in Raymond’s table represents a reduction of troubled projects by a factor 3. Together with the (a) effect, this result confirms the effectiveness of architecture as a risk- and cost-management discipline.

Thank you Raymond for helping us quantify the benefits side of the business case for solution architecture!

References

  1. Slot, R. (2010). A method for valuing architecture-based business transformation and measuring the value of solutions architecture (PhD Thesis). University of Amsterdam.
  2. Poort, E. R., & van Vliet, H. (2012). RCDA: Architecting as a Risk- and Cost Management Discipline. Journal of Systems and Software, 1995-2013.

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