Tactical Solutions

Simon Brown, on his blog “Coding the Architecture,” had a good, short post on tactical solutions. One of the points he made that I liked was this:

For me, a tactical solution can be thought of as a stopgap. It’s an interim solution. It’s something potentially quick and dirty. It satisfies a very immediate need. Importantly, it has a limited lifespan.

It’s the last sentence that hits home. If you’re calling something tactical, you’d better have a date on the books as to when the solution will be replaced. That’s not easy to do, especially considering how long the typical IT project takes and when funding decisions are made. I had one project where I went to my supervisor and asked him, “Are you okay with paying $$$ for this now, knowing that we will replace it in 18 months to 24 months?” He said okay, and while the real timeline wound up being about 36 months, the replacement eventually did happen. That’s probably the closest I’ve come to truly having a tactical solution. At the time the solution was put in place, a placeholder was put in place for the strategic solution and the process for obtaining funding began.

This brings up a great point for the domain of enterprise architecture. Many architects out there spend a lot of time establishing a “future state architecture.” Often, the future state is a pristine of view on how we want things to be. What doesn’t happen, however, are statements regarding everything that exists today. I’m a big fan of making things as explicit as possible. When I’ve worked on future state architecture, I always ask about the current platforms and what will happen to them. Either they’re an approved part of the future state (and they can be classified as not available for new solutions), or there needs to be a project proposed to migrate to something that is approved. What you don’t want to do is leave something in limbo where no one knows whether it’s part of the architecture or not. The same holds true for so-called tactical solutions. Unless there’s an approved project to replace it with the strategic solution, it’s not tactical, it’s the solution. Don’t let it linger in limbo.

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