Have you ever thought to design a coffee making process with some diagrams, or doing the same with other banal activities such as taking a shower? Of course not.
For other cases less trivial than these, including software project development, a minimal amount of design work can be quite useful and somewhat needed.
Often questions arise; is an architecture design worth the time and effort invested in it? Well, you may answer this question first: Are there risks in the project that could be minimized by an early design activity?
The more ambitious and challenging the project is, the higher the number of risks, and the more difficult it is to complete successfully.
How to identify risks: The easiest place to start is with requirements, in whatever form they take, and to look for things that seem difficult to achieve.
Gathering requirements is fundamental for deciding what to do and how. However, sometimes problems arise at this starting point that lead to the ruination of the project. Some assumptions may underestimate this key phase and shake the architect role to its foundations:
1. It’s someone else’s responsibility to do requirements.
Domains drive the architecture choices, not vice-versa. Requirements can create architecture problems. At the very least, you need to assist the business analysts.
2. I learn the domain as I write the code; incrementally.
While prototyping pieces of software is a way for mitigating engineering risks and figuring out the hardest problems, writing code could be a waste of time for analyzing a domain. Rather, it’s very cost-effective to model it in advance.
3. The requirements are already fully understood by the stakeholders.
Clear communication is critical between people. The role of a software architect can be a very difficult one when others don’t understand what you do and why.
4. Domains are irrelevant to architecture choice.
Developers may copy an architecture from a past project. Maybe just following the company standard, but ignoring the motivations behind previous choices. They are more likely to be unaware of the qualities required in the current project.
5. I already know the requirements.
At least the documentation should be in your mind, but designers should use models to amplify their reasoning abilities and unfold not clearly visible aspects that affect their own risks.