What tools to use?
Like most of November Five’s processes, we prefer to keep things practical, and structured. The diagrams are built and maintained in LucidChart, while the information recorded in the conversation is stored in the product’s dedicated Confluence space.
We’ve also created a number of templates to use in these conversations. This ensures that our information (and the conversation in itself) is always structured and consistent across our projects.
In these templates we describe a number of default topics:
- The SPOC, our contact for the entire discussion.
- An overview of the products that are used, the business processes in which they manifests, and the way we connect, authenticate and authorise the system. It also clarifies which actors can actually talk to this system (authenticated and anonymous users, call center employees, back-office employees, bots or other services, …).
- A connection test.
- The exact maintenance windows of every system that our product depends on.
- A detailed roadmap. Systems change, are updated or replaced by other systems, and we need to avoid situations where we discover someone’s migrated a key depency… a week before we’re going live.
- Meeting notes for later reference.
- Attachments, like API documentation, Word documents, PDFs, Visio files, Powerpoints, etc.
Logically, the two high-level diagrams we described earlier can only be drawn up by a client’s CTO or Architect. However, these people tend to have very busy schedules!
We’ve found that having them appoint a SPOC within their company drastically reduces the time that we need with the CTOs or Architects. It shares the workload across a larger team, and our main stakeholders don’t end up becoming bottlenecks.
In short, this is the schedule we impose during the assessment:
- Architect / CTO creates the Context & Container View.
- Architect / CTO appoints SPOCs.
- Each SPOC defines the Container View for the component (s)he is responsible for, during a 1,5h long session with us.
- November Five organises a presentation and alignment session (with all above) to validate our conclusions.
Signed, sealed, still improving
Of course, we’re constantly improving this workflow, and fine-tuning it as we take on new projects. However, we feel we’ve reached a solid basis to work from – give it a try and let us know if it’s worked for you!