DDD Europe 2023 - Program

Collective Architecture - Live RPG Experience

Main Conference - Hands-on Lab



Diana Montalion and Andrew Harmel-Law

Diana MontalionAndrew Harmel-Law

As the relational complexity of software increases, our need for relationally-smart architects increases along with it. The dualist role of “architect” as either the most-experienced implementor or the ivory tower strategist collapses. We are evolving towards architecture as a collective practice. When done well, this practice delivers domain-aligned, team-decoupling, cohesiveness-driving, constantly-evolving impactful recommendations.

The challenge is, we have few opportunities to practice collective architecture. Surrounded by the walls of organizational hierarchies, plastered with GANT charts, we are rarely free to enjoy systems architecting.

In this workshop, you’ll enter a fictional organization that wants technology changes. In this First of It’s Kind Murder-Mystery Style RPG workshop, you’ll have an egalitarian experience of “doing architecture” regardless of your role, you’ll work with teammates to make architectural recommendations, with constraints drawn from real world experiences. Each participant will receive a role and background (known only to them). NonPlayer Characters (NPCs) reveal hidden: gotchas at (in)opportune moments as the story/workshop unfolds. From the Security-obsessed Ops Person to the Let’s Use SAFe Cx0, you’ll immerse in a real-world systems architecture scenario.

Three teams will create recommendations that solve three different objectives. They’ll need to seek advice from domain experts and NPCs who know how the system works. They’ll work together (sometimes). Each team will have a budget. Nobody knows how the game will end.

The goal of this workshop is to practice collective architectural in real time. To deliver modern architectures, we need to think well, together. This workshop strengthens your real-world skills by teaching us how to:

  • Build an architectural recommendation, as a group
  • Give and receive architectural advice
  • Practice systemic reasoning and deliver a sound recommendation
  • Pivot and adapt as systemic constraints are revealed via feedback
  • Create a new mental model using pieces of the current model
  • Have wicked fun doing it, together

By creating a fun and safe space, we’ll explore ways to overcome the obstacles we face in our daily lives. And learn from each other about communication, decision making and the fine art of improvisational systems design.

About Diana Montalion

If you’ve read The Economist, donated to Wikipedia, or contributed to The World Monuments Fund, you’ve interacted with systems that Diana helped to architect.

She has 18+ years experience delivering initiatives, independently or as part of a professional services group, to clients including Stanford, The Gates Foundation and Teach For All. She is co-founder of Mentrix Group, a consultancy providing enterprise systems architecture, technology strategy, team leadership and systems development. She also teaches courses on writing as thinking.

About Andrew Harmel-Law

A highly enthusiastic Technical Principal; Andrew specialises in Java / JVM technologies, agile delivery, build tools and automation, and domain driven design.

Experienced across the software development lifecycle and in many sectors including government, banking, and eCommerce, what motivates him is the production of large-scale software solutions, fulfilling complex client requirements. He understands that people, tooling, architecture and process all have key roles to play in achieving this.

Andrew has a passion for open source software and its communities. He has been interested in and involved with OSS to a greater or lesser extent since his career began; as a user, contributor, expert group member, or paid advocate.

Finally, Andrew enjoys sharing his experience as much as possible. This sharing is not only seen in his formal consulting engagements, but also informally through mentoring, blog posts, conferences (speaking and organising), and open sourcing his code.