Engineering the Future of Software
November 13–14, 2016: Training
November 14–16, 2016: Tutorials & Conference
San Francisco, CA

Making the case for architectural change

Michelle Brush (Cerner Corporation)
1:15pm–2:05pm Tuesday, 11/15/2016
Business skills
Location: Tower Salon A Level: Intermediate
Average rating: ****.
(4.17, 12 ratings)

Prerequisite knowledge

  • Professional experience as an engineer and architect working in a large system

What you'll learn

  • Understand how to make the case for architectural migration


Sometimes moving to a new technology or architecture is a clear necessity. The user needs have fundamentally changed. The stack is no longer supported. The system hit an unacceptable scalability limit. In these cases, the decision to invest in migrating the system should be obvious.

On the other hand, how do you make the case for architectural migration when the costs of not doing it are hidden? How do you measure the cost of significant gaps in maintainability or support? What if the technology choice lacks a pool of talent from which to hire? What if the system is built of bespoke components that carry with them a steep learning curve? What if there are no tests? Since an architect’s intuition is usually insufficient for making the case, he or she needs to come armed with data and a clear plan to move the system forward.

Michelle Brush focuses on how to make a business case for architectural migration, covering the attributes of the system that can be tracked and measured as surrogates for architectural quality and offering guidance on how to scope the work to minimize risk to the organization. Along the way, Michelle touches on the importance of providing reasonable estimates of the effort and addresses how to frame the conversation with leadership to reduce the likelihood of hearing, “No.”

Leaders are typically unmoved by arguments for design. If you really want to change the system, you have to gather compelling data and present it alongside a clear plan.

Photo of Michelle Brush

Michelle Brush

Cerner Corporation

Michelle Brush is engineering director for Cerner Corporation, where she leads teams that develop the platform for ingesting stream and batch data specific to Cerner’s Population Health solutions. A math geek turned computer geek with 15 years of software development experience, Michelle has developed algorithms and data structures for search, compression, and data mining in both embedded and enterprise systems. She is the chapter leader for the Kansas City chapter of Girl Develop It.

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Hyunjoon Cho
11/27/2016 10:47am PST

I really enjoyed Michelle’s presentation. Would it be possible to have a soft copy of the presentation?