Technical architecture - what does it mean and why does it matter?

Pritesh Pattni

Choosing to work with a low-code platform like OutSystems may mean that you save time and money over traditional high-code, but it doesn’t mean you can forget about technical architecture, which must form the solid foundations.

In our experience, apps, systems and digital transformations often fail because of a lack of thought and preparation in this area.

Organisations often adopt many different types of technologies as they scale, mixing apps and spreadsheets post-it-notes, with on-prem and cloud-based systems. All these technologies will have different security, different user controls, different data models, different integrations, different business process flows. Worse still, similar applications may produce different results.

This confused landscape can end up it’s working against the organisation rather than for it, causing significant problems, and high costs.

What is technical architecture?

According to cio.com, ‘Technical architecture provides a way to describe, evaluate and plan the evolution of the information technology that IT manages and the enterprise relies on.”

This is the foundation of the technology you use in your business. And it’s just one part of a wider process. Ideally, technical architecture works alongside enterprise architecture – which is essentially the organisation’s strategic IT approach. This also has to align with the overall business strategy, delivering IT systems and solutions that allow the organisation to meet its targets efficiently and reliably.

Having up-to-date technical architecture in place means that any new system being developed for your organisation can be more easily scoped, designed and built – because you know exactly how it is going to fit in, where it needs to integrate and how it will be used.

The dangers of poor technical architecture

How important is good technical architecture – not just to your new projects, but to the overall success of the IT in your organisation? Here are seven ways that poor technical architecture can have an impact:

  1. It becomes more difficult to scale. Businesses need to grow. And complex businesses often grow in different directions at different times. Your IT needs to be able to handle this growth, but without good technical foundations, it may hold back progress.
  2. Integration is tricky. There’s no one system that can run a complex business by itself. As organisations grow, they inevitably take on several different IT systems and solutions to help them manage day-to-day business. And to do that successfully, all your systems should integrate with each other where necessary. Systems with poor architecture can find it hard to integrate, resulting in process inefficiencies and a lack of visibility.
  3. Sub-par performance. Why invest in a system if you can’t get the most out of it? Without good technical architecture, you could find things run more slowly, some operations don’t work at all and users get frustrated.
  4. Security worries. Everyone working in and with your business expects you to have strong IT security. However, poor technical architecture can lead to gaps that hackers can exploit, leaving you vulnerable to data loss and potential fines and legal action.
  5. Creates inflexibility. Organisations need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances or market trends. Think about how suddenly businesses had to transform their IT during the pandemic. Those with sound technical architecture were much more flexible than those without.
  6. Long-term technical debt. Often, the good groundwork needed on technical architecture is forfeited for short-term gains in cost and time. But this can lead to long-term problems, and systems can quickly become redundant or surplus to requirements.
  7. Ongoing expense. While technical debt leaves organisations struggling to perform, a lack of focus on technical architecture can also result in financial expense. This is typically because systems have not been properly evaluated or have been a quick fix. Maintenance, fixes and updates then become expensive and time-consuming.
 

Technical architecture for app development

When you are considering a new piece of technology, such as an app, you need to take a structured approach. Whether your app is to replace an internal process or to support your customers or suppliers, it needs to be properly thought through from both a usability and a technical point of view.

In order to get the most from your investment, the technical architecture behind your new development must be strong. And that will include looking at your current technical architecture to make sure your app will function to the best of its ability.

By focusing on these key areas, you can be sure that the long-term technical performance of your development has been properly thought through, and is a foundational part of your approach:

  • Undertake a requirement analysis to ensure you understand exactly what all your stakeholders want to achieve.
  • Ensure your design and architecture are scalable, in line with your business and IT strategies.
  • Always focus on performance, as this will ensure the best possible user experience, and an efficient overall outcome.
  • Build security in from the start, as this is fundamental to the privacy of your organisation and your users – and to your wider IT systems.
  • Future-proof by choosing to work with technologies that are tried and tested, have good user communities and are respected by professional developers.
 

A good development team, using a market-leading low-code platform like OutSystems, will make technical architecture a focus of your project. This will give you confidence not just in the functional performance of your project, but in its long-term technical strength.

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