What is Minimum Viable Architecture? Why is it important?

Companies have traditionally taken a waterfall-style approach In the process of defining and designing software architecture. Every detail within the development lifecycle is accounted for much before a line of code is written. Though effective, this model has proven unreliable as it is exceedingly slow and thus not suitable for today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape. 

By the time the architecture is complete for developers to use, the business environment has transformed greatly. Consequently, developers are compelled to either get rid of the design altogether or build solutions for the current reality based on a framework that was built for a different time.

The waterfall-style approach of designing the entire architecture upfront, therefore, is an outdated method as it cripples the company’s steady feedback cycle as well as its ability to adapt to ever-changing requirements, both of which are indispensable qualities. 

The persistent issue of over-architecture can only be avoided or countered by what is called ‘Minimum Viable Architecture’. Let us take a look at what it is and how companies can benefit through its implementation.

Understanding Minimum Viable Architecture

To understand the concept of Minimum Viable Architecture, we must discuss the Agile software development model. The Agile methodology is a software development practice that promotes a continuous iteration of testing and development throughout the project’s development lifecycle. Unlike the waterfall model, the development and testing activities are both concurrent in the Agile model. This method relies heavily on responding to change rather than following a concrete plan.

One of the primary elements of the Agile methodology is something called Minimum Viable Product or MVP. This refers to the building of a product with the bare minimum functionality required to be able to deliver a usable product to its early adopters. When this very idea is applied to a whole enterprise, it is called Minimum Viable Architecture or MVA.

Simply put, Minimum Viable Architecture, often referred to as “Just Enough Architecture” due to its nature, is a method of software development that entails the implementation of the core architectural components that comprise the architecture’s foundation such that the end result is good enough to be released. The rest of the architecture can then be built on top of this foundation. In this manner, the end user’s most critical requirements, both functional and non-functional, are prioritized and fulfilled.

The Main Aspects of MVA Are As Follows:

  • Build for the most likely scenario. Keep the design flexible enough to tackle edge-case scenarios as they arise.
  • Keep the major technologies and the programming language intact. The product is built in small increments over a certain length of time.
  • This type of architecture is grounded in concrete and factual requirements instead of assumptions or gut feelings.

A Few Basic Guidelines for Implementing MVA

The very first step to successfully implementing Minimum Viable Architecture is to identify the goals of the business. As important as the goal, the target users for the end product need to be defined. Map the complete journey of the customer, such as what problems they are looking to solve.

At this juncture, it is crucial to make a distinction between the must-have features and the good-to-have features. Features that directly address the most pressing pain points of the customers should be the topmost priority. Defining the target objectives for strategies and also the metrics for the measurement of success can be of great help at this stage. 

Next comes the development methodology. It is of utmost importance that the development strategies entail best practices pertaining to the code review process, repository management, a persistence strategy, as well as a quality assurance or QA strategy. The next comes the complex step of defining the tech stack to be used, such as the programming language, toolkit, and so on, and the cloud environments that you intend to use for the process.

Once all these steps are taken care of, determining the architectural pattern that fits what you are trying to accomplish the best will tie everything together nicely.

The Benefits of MVA

Prioritizing agility has come to be less of an option and more of a necessity. Businesses that do prioritize it by switching to an adaptive business model such as the Minimum Viable Architecture model are bound to have a much higher success rate as they prepare for and embrace the perpetual state of change.

The MVA methodology can be immensely beneficial to a business that is heavily reliant on investor buy-in as it allows the company to ascertain whether or not their product will succeed before pitching their idea to the investors. When pitching their idea, they will also present a solid business case demonstrating the market validity of the product.

MVA also allows the organization to verify the market demand for its product and discover whether or not the target customers would really use it without having to invest large amounts of money. Testing UX and usability of the product as well as building a monetization strategy can also become a breeze to accomplish when following the Minimum Viable Architecture model.

Lastly, the cost-efficiency factor of the MVA model remains unmatched. Over-architecture from the very outset comes with a hefty price tag, while the minimum approach only requires investments in small increments.

Final Thoughts

Using the Minimum Viable Architecture model can ultimately result in a highly polished end product as it relies on testing assumptions with small experiments and guiding development using the findings of said experiments. Providing a flexible framework that can help achieve target business objectives, MVA responds to evolving customer requirements and technologies and can go a long way in promoting agility.