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Architectural decision-making as a financial investment: An industrial case study

Areti Ampatzoglou; Elvira-Maria Arvanitou; Apostolos Ampatzoglou; Paris Avgeriou; Angeliki-Agathi Tsintzira; Alexandros Chatzigeorgiou

Context

Making architectural decisions is a crucial task but also very difficult, considering the scope of the decisions and their impact on quality attributes. To make matters worse, architectural decisions need to combine both technical and business factors, which are very dissimilar by nature.

Objectives

We provide a cost-benefit approach and supporting tooling that treats architectural decisions as financial investments by: (a) combining both technical and business factors; and (b) transforming the involved factors into currency, allowing their uniform aggregation. Apart from illustrating the method, we validate both the proposed approach and the tool, in terms of fitness for purpose, usability, and potential limitations.

Method

To validate the approach, we have performed a case study in a software development company, in the domain of low-energy embedded systems. We employed triangulation in the data collection phase of the case study, by performing interviews, focus groups, an observational session, and questionnaires.

Results

The results of the study suggested that the proposed approach: (a) provides a structured process for systematizing decision-making; (b) enables the involvement of multiple stakeholders, distributing the decision-making responsibility to more knowledgeable people; (c) uses monetized representations that are important for assessing decisions in a unified manner; and (d) enables decision reuse and documentation.

Conclusions

The results of the study suggest that architectural decision-making can benefit from treating this activity as a financial investment. The various benefits that have been identified from mixing financial and technological aspects are well-accepted from industrial stakeholders.

Embargoed Access

Files are currently under embargo but will be publicly accessible after September 19, 2022.

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