The Underappreciated Importance of Architecture

Katherine Shao
VP Sales Enablement Practice
Architecture is all around us, from grand buildings to subtle patterns in nature. But its importance often goes underappreciated, especially in business and technology. In this post, we explore why architecture is so vital and what happens when we neglect it.
June 18, 2024

The Obvious and the Subtle

When we look at buildings, the importance of architecture is obvious. A building's beauty is directly connected to its architecture. We don't just say "that's a beautiful building," we say "wow, look at that architecture." Whether it's the old post office building in Chicago, the Duomo in Florence, or the Sydney opera house, we recognize great architecture.

But then there's subtle architectures all around us that we may not even realize:

We don't call these out as "architecture" but we're drawn to their inherent design.

The Struggle in Business

In nature, architecture emerges through mechanisms or ecology we don't necessarily control. With buildings, there's an overt intention to create architecture. But in business, we often work against sound architectural principles when designing processes such as sales, manufacturing, or marketing work flows; or information flows (such as learning experiences, communications or even internal business cases and proposals).

It's right in the middle of organizations, systems, and processes where we struggle with architecture the most. There's a huge temptation to skip upfront architectural work to get to the shiny object output faster. But that leads to chaos, just like trying to build a house without blueprints.

Fighting Entropy

Maintaining good architecture is truly hard work - you're fighting against the entropy and tendency towards chaos. Organizations need to be purposeful about:

Who does this type of work? Usually it’s system thinkers who understand both the technical architectures and the human tendencies working against them. Some may think AI will somehow automatically maintain these architectures. But we can't just handwave that - we need to build capabilities purposefully and integrate them systematically.

Architecture is one of those nerdy topics that's easy to overlook or take for granted. But architecture is crucial for creating solid, sustainable solutions - whether it's:

We have to prioritize defining good architectures upfront. And be vigilant about maintaining them against the constant forces of chaos, complexity and human nature's path-of-least-resistance. It's laborious and often unseen, but that's the "nerd work" needed to avoid the shiny thing collapsing into a pile of rubble.

The Architectural Foundation for Success

At Oxygen, we know firsthand the importance of developing proper architectures upfront for our learning solutions. From information design to data tracking to maintenance processes, it takes real work to construct these foundations piece-by-piece before getting to the final deliverable.

There are no shortcuts past this unglamorous but critical work. Embrace your inner architecture nerd and prioritize laying the right groundwork for sustainable success. Your future self will thank you when what you've built is still standing strong.

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