Designing application architecture is key to business success
Designing the architecture of an application, its structure, and its functionality is one of the fundamental steps to quickly achieve even the most complex business goals. The question is, can a good enterprise application be created without these time-consuming stages? Theoretically, such a possibility exists. But…why take the risk? In this text, you will learn why the stage of designing solutions and application architecture is the best time investment that quickly pays off.
Overview of the discussed topics:
- What is application design?
- What are the benefits of a well-structured project from a technical standpoint?
- What are the business benefits of this stage?
- Time for an example!
Ready? Let’s begin!
What do designing solutions and application architecture involve?
Designing solutions and application architecture is a process of crucial importance for the entire project. Determining the structure, and dividing it into functionalities, modules, and interfaces – all these elements, thoroughly thought out, facilitate the work of programmers. As a result, the final system can optimally achieve the defined business goals. It is also important to take care of software users and plan ways of their interacting with the application.
It is worth emphasizing at the same time that we do not expect the client to provide 100% of the requirements in the design phase. In practice, no application is created according to such a concept. Analysis of the client’s needs and challenges provides space for proposing useful functional solutions. In this way, we combine IT capabilities with real business needs. Often, the client’s initial vision evolves during the application design phase in a way that the investor did not think about when submitting their initial assumptions. The role of an experienced implementer is to analyze the guidelines, understand the available possibilities and limitations, and propose such functionalities that will meet the current needs in the least complicated way.
As part of the discussed stage, the entire project documentation is prepared, including:
- information on functional and non-functional requirements
- description of architecture and user interfaces
- database diagrams
- requirements related to performance and security.
High-level planning is a key to success. When we know what the system is supposed to do, we can refine its functionalities in such a way as to efficiently achieve the intended goals. The more information we manage to establish in the initial stage of work, the easier it is to divide the entire project into smaller elements and utilize agile project management methodologies to deliver specific values promptly.
It is important to remember that high-level planning enables better communication with the client. The investor knows perfectly well what can be done and to what extent it will be achievable/difficult within the adopted assumptions. Very often, this allows for a quick identification of edge cases that make it impossible to introduce a certain type of solution. It is better to learn about them at an early stage of the project than to deal with time-consuming changes later on.
Designing solution architecture in service of development
When discussing the role that the design phase plays in the process of creating custom software, it is important to focus on the technical aspects. So why is this element of the process so crucial for developers? Primarily, it is about providing a safe working environment in which changes and new features can be easily introduced. This time-saving approach not only benefits project teams but also delivers tangible cost savings for investors. The speed of implementation directly translates into the realization of business benefits. As a result, we have fewer programming hours leading to project completion, lower costs, and the ability to quickly work towards a return on investment. But that’s not all!
Designing the architecture of an application is a stage that should serve programmers, not the other way around. A professionally planned application architecture divides the entire structure into smaller, independent modules. If this stage is carried out with due diligence, it will directly translate into streamlining the entire project’s implementation. For example, let’s assume we are dealing with a complex mobile application. The development team consists of programmers with extensive experience and less experienced specialists. Such project teams working with code at the same time can create chaos. However, if the structure of our application is properly thought out, each team works on its slice of code, and changes and updates are made quickly and easily. What about any problems that may arise? Tests help to detect them at an early stage, and repairing them does not involve downtime for other project groups. By working in this way, we reduce the risk of errors while optimizing the working time of all developers.
Such an agile approach has an additional advantage. We carry out individual sprints, but individual tasks within a sprint also go through stages of definition, design, implementation, testing, and introducing any corrections/changes. Why all of this? To quickly react to difficulties, check the quality of introduced solutions, and constantly inform the client about progress. Rapid delivery of specific values and responsible task division are elements that result from high-level planning. These are benefits worth fighting for, right?
Thoughtful application architecture and measurable business benefits
Designing the architecture of an application results in an increase in the value and quality of the software being developed. Many business benefits can be attributed to a well-planned application architecture. These benefits can be grouped into a simple scheme:
- Improved application quality – optimal quality standards increase the reliability of new software, which in turn increases the comfort and efficiency of users’ work. Additionally, it helps build a positive image of the entire company.
- Cost optimization – a well-designed application architecture enables efficient use of resources, which reduces the overall project costs.
- Shortened application launch time – a thoughtfully designed system architecture shortens the implementation time, allowing for faster deployment of the application into production. As a result, the investor may gain a competitive advantage.
- Flexibility and scalability – a responsible application architecture guarantees easy scaling and development of software. As new business opportunities or market needs arise, the system can be easily adjusted to meet those needs. Taking a broader long-term perspective, the value of the product continues to grow over time.
Examples of elements of the application architecture creation stage for a manufacturing company
It’s worth enriching theoretical considerations with examples – because only by working with specifics can we comprehensively describe the process of designing application architecture. The following data is presented schematically to help better understand the value of the discussed stage:
- Project -creating a mobile application for monitoring production and inventory levels;
- Analysis of business requirements – we examine the company’s needs and identify the elements that need to be optimized. We pay attention to production needs, the efficiency of the machinery, the software currently used in the company, inventory levels, Logistics, and sales processes. The application should integrate with key systems in the company, and support collaboration between logistics, production, and sales departments. Real-time information flow is one of the priorities. The system should allow for the delegation and implementation of current actions in such a way as to optimize the time needed to perform them;
- Determining the application structure – we determine exactly which modules need to be implemented to ensure the implementation of priorities and what dependencies will exist between them. The most intuitive division seems to be into production, sales, logistics, and warehouse modules. Within each module, we determine the internal component elements that will enable smooth data collection, processing, and reporting;
- User interface design – at this stage, we focus on how users will interact with the application. The interface must be intuitive and easy to understand. Users should feel comfortable working with the new system. All graphical elements, menus, text fields, etc. – the whole should be clear and functional;
- Technology selection – now we select technologies that will ensure the scalability and high performance of the new application. The experience of the implementer plays a huge role here. Specific nature of the manufacturing industry alone can point to solutions that have proven themselves in similar projects. The more experienced the implementer, the higher the guarantee of selecting optimal technologies that can be easily developed in the future;
- Database design – here, the security of stored data, compliance with company standards, and industry best practices are important. Adequate data protection is one of the key elements of developer activities;
- Implementation and testing – time to take action! The refined modules of the application architecture enable smooth sprint implementation, and constant testing allows for the quick elimination of even minor irregularities.
It is important to remember that introducing changes and new functionalities is easier with a modular, well-planned application architecture. Already at the initial stage of the project, the client receives more refined proposals for functionalities and all members of the project team are familiar with the context of the tasks. Each developer has access to specific information about the project. This means that the quality of a particular functionality does not depend on a single person who executes it. It involves the knowledge and experience of the entire team. It is worth mentioning that often designed solutions have a common domain, which ensures the coherence of the entire project.
In the absence of a properly designed application architecture, introducing new functionalities or changing existing ones can be difficult. It may require rebuilding a large part of the project, which in turn increases the costs and time of completing the whole project. That is why detailed planning of solutions and analysis of edge cases are elements that can save many days of unnecessary work in the future.
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