One of the world’s leading enterprise platforms, Sitecore, recently changed a long practice of not providing any recommendations on software architecture when building Sitecore solutions.
At Pentia we have many years of experience with building long lasting large scale solutions based on Sitecore and naturally I am pleased to see that Sitecore has adapted the principles of software architecture used at Pentia and formalized it under the name Modular Architecture.
This might sound technical but it is actually great news for business leaders, so hang in and read on, this article could save you a lot of money, time and effort.
What is software architecture?
As a business leader, marketeer or other business professional in an organization who is either using or plans to use the Sitecore Experience Platform or for that matter any other form of platform, why should you care about software architecture?
No one can see the inner-workings of the website anyway, it is not like the visual design that your end-users meet? Shouldn’t the IT department take care of softcare architecture?
I would argue that software architecture is at least as important as the visual features if not more in the long run. Why? Because design and business needs will change and your digital solution has to be able to change with it. This is not possible if the solution does not implement a good software architecture to begin with.
In this post I will not only explain why you should care about good software architecture but also why it is of the utmost importance that software architecture is a corner-stone in the whole way of how you think about your digital solution.
Do you build a skyscraper without professional blueprints?
Software engineering is an engineering profession so let us start with comparing it to engineering in the construction industry.
If you are planning to build a skyscraper then you need experienced engineers to make a blueprint, trained workers to do the construction and expert help to maintain the building long after it has been built.
Software architecture is similar to the blueprints of the skyscraper. Getting these wrong or hiring inexperienced or even untrained engineers to do the job will end up in a catastrophe. The skyscraper will collapse if it even gets finished. The project will run way over budget and the workers will work blindfolded and when finished experts cannot help maintain the solution. It will be stillborn even before it is launched.
When a building collapses, laws and regulations kick in. Someone is responsible and can be held legally accountable for not following the well-set industry standards in the construction industry.
This is where the similarity with software architecture ends. On large website projects, typically no one can be held responsible if the blueprints for the solution had flaws or maybe never existed.
There are no set industry standards in terms of quality when building a website.
It is an unregulated market where it is often seen that the lowest bidder gets the job without any guarantee that their engineers have the knowledge or experience to carry out the job at all.
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Is software architecture expensive?
No, in fact rather the opposite, it is expensive not to have a proper architecture in your solution.
If the website solution you built cannot be maintained or is expensive to adapt to future requirements then all the resources spent on design, wireframes, training of editors, developing the website, producing content and so on are wasted. It is not just the cost of getting the website developed. It is all work that is lost and has to be restarted!
Sitecore Modular Architecture
By showcasing Modular Architecture, Sitecore has now set an industry standard for building website solutions on the Sitecore Experience Platform.
The architecture has stood the test of time since it has been used and evangelized at Pentia, the founders of Sitecore, for the past many years.
Modular Architecture is a set of principles and methodologies that will ensure that your solution can
- Start small and mature
- Try fast, fail fast
- Adapt for changes in both Design and Requirements
- Agile approach to both development and support also after the website is launched
It is all about thinking ahead, thinking further than just to the first release date. It is about creating a long lasting solution that is easy to adapt and maintain.
The missing KPIs in website projects
When you start outlining the business case for a new website project, you define a set of Key Performance Indicators so it is possible to measure the success of the project once done.
These KPIs typically cover the things that are particularly important for your business case. This could be time-to-market, expected ROI, number of users, number of online sales and so on.
They rarely cover the following
- Cost of maintenance after go-live
- Cost of adding a new feature
- Time for adding a new feature
- Agility, the ability to adapt the website based on experiences gained
These indicators are overlooked in the trust relation with the implementation partner. Whilst the partner might instead focus on quick delivery and not the lifespan of the solution.
I would argue that these indicators in most cases are at least as important as the ones set by the actual business case that started the whole project to begin with. Being able to adapt quickly is key in the changing world of websites.
Modular Architecture provide a set of basic blueprints that support the implementation partner. These blueprints also grant a method for measuring these KPIs. By having your Sitecore solution follow Modular Architecture you will ensure that you can measure these and if the architecture is implemented correctly that these will succeed.
How to proceed?
Pentia invented and has been working with Modular Architecture for Sitecore during the last decade. We continuously evolve the architecture in collaboration with both Sitecore and the Sitecore community.
Besides starting new solutions that use the architecture, we have helped Sitecore customers and partners around the world with adapting existing solutions to follow the architecture.
As a software architect, I often wonder why business leaders, marketers and business professionals do not pay more attention to software architecture seeing there is such a huge potential to harvest in terms of money saved and time spent.Follow us for similar blogposts:
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