Retrofitting Existing Architectures

Adding evolvability to existing architectures depends on three factors: component coupling, engineering practice maturity, and developer ease in crafting fitness functions.

Appropriate Coupling and Cohesion

Component coupling largely determines the evolvability of the technical architecture. Yet the best possible evolvable technical architecture is doomed if the data schema is rigid and fossilized. Cleanly decoupled systems make evolution easy; nests of exuberant coupling harm it. To build truly evolvable systems, architects must consider all affected dimensions of an architecture.

Beyond the technical aspects of coupling, architects must also consider and defend the functional cohesion of the components of their system. When migrating from one architecture to another, the functional cohesion determines the ultimate granularity of restructured components. That doesn’t mean architects can’t decompose components to a ridiculous level, but rather that components should have an appropriate size based on the problem context. For example, some business problems are more coupled than others, such as in the case of heavily transactional systems. Trying to build an extremely decoupled architecture that is counter to the problem is unproductive.


Understand the business problem before choosing an architecture.

While this advice seems obvious, we constantly see teams that have chosen the shiniest new architectural pattern rather than the most appropriate one suffer. Part of choosing an architecture lies in understanding where the problem and physical architecture come together.

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