I’ve been working in the world of IT since before mobile phones and the internet. My children can’t think of what life must have been like in those days – yes, we actually spoke to each other face to face! I’ve always been a business user of IT and not a practitioner, but over the years, I’ve noticed a trend.

As the complexity and power of technology have increased, the reliance on IT specialists within the business has expanded exponentially. The business owner specifies what they want the system to do; the technologists then identify how to do it. In the past, this worked well, but today it doesn’t. This is because how it’s done can affect your business’ growth, profitability and even survivability. For many years, IT folks have become more business-savvy. Now it’s time for businesspeople to understand the underpinnings of IT a bit more.

Why your architecture team is your most critical asset

If you are the business owner or holding the budget for a new application project, ask your team if they have architected it in a way that it’s:

  • Able to detect faults easily
  • Free from lock-in with a particular vendor or technology
  • Easily understood by new developers
  • Adaptable to business changes quickly and easily
  • Easily scalable as the user or customer bases increase

I suggest asking some business questions as well, such as:

  • How much would it cost to double the customer base?
  • Would there be a performance impact?
  • How much time would we require to bring it online?
  • If my cloud service provider becomes too expensive, can I swap to another?

 You’ll have many more of your own like these. The answers from your architecture team will help you decide if it’s right for the business.

It’s time for businesspeople to understand the underpinnings of IT a bit more.

How business microservices are changing the game

Microservices are often a good answer, but they must be designed (or architected) with great care.

Imagine that an application is a complex structure, such as a large castle, carved out of one large block of stone. Everything from the walls to the towers and even the kitchens are bonded through this big block. If you want to change a part of the castle, you must alter the entire block of stone. Therefore, if something goes wrong in one part of the castle, it can affect the rest of it as everything is connected.

Compare this to a modern town with several small buildings, such as houses, shops and restaurants. Each building has its own function and is built separately from the others. If you want to update something in a specific building, you only need to modify that building, without affecting the others, and if there is a problem in one of the buildings, it does not directly affect the rest of the town.

In a monolithic application, everything is integrated into one big whole, which can lead to complexities and problems in managing and adapting the software. In a microservices-based application, the different parts of the software are like separate buildings, allowing for flexibility and easier maintenance.

Essentially, the difference is about the way an application is built and how easy it is to make changes and fix problems.

Moving forward with business microservices

Challenge your IT team and your vendors with business questions like those above. It could make the difference between “it will take months to change” to “it will take days to change”. You can have an application that is constantly improving, instead of large, risky updates once a year. Getting this right can radically increase your ability to upgrade at the speed your customers need whilst reducing the costs of designing, building and testing your application.

Imagine how you can delight your customers and keep ahead of the competition if you can change your key platforms in such a short time and with less risk.