Keeping Cooks in the Kitchen: Powering Autonomy Through Enterprise Design

The magic of going Agile - the fact ATB has multiple product teams and squads who have been passed the baton and given the autonomy to tackle big business problems and develop innovative, unique products and solutions for our customers. The goal is a beautiful balance of chaos and order: creative freedom and willingness to experiment is only truly realised and scalable if there is ‘order’ and consistency in how we service our teams.  

Thus, hand-in-hand with enabling autonomy across agile teams is creating a robust, service-oriented Enterprise Design model: what and how teams can access in order to develop the technology they envision. 

To date ATB invested a lot of work in building agile squads and disciplines (see our agile transformation series pt. 1, 2, 3), but the architecture itself needed to transform in order to enable the squad ‘autonomy’ that true Agile transformation is supposed to achieve. We discovered that in order to move fast, teams were building their own stacks or spending precious time digging deep into our core to find data sets, services, components, and tools or to build gateways in order to create the product or solution they desired. It’s not sustainable or scalable. Not to mention, time should be spent on transforming our business to the benefit of our customers, not rummaging around for ‘ingredients.’

In comes ATB’s Enterprise Design team, who are driving the shift from traditional enterprise architecture models, which would dictate the sandbox and rules within developer teams would follow, and instead developing a service design that hand delivers solutions, recognizing that architecture changes occur for more consistently nowadays than they ever did before (gone are the days of six-year locked-in stacks), especially with the move to the cloud.

Get Cooking: Enterprise Design, Microservices, and Being Service-Focused
Let’s use a restaurant analogy.
The product team is the chef. The chef’s core role is to use his/her creative expertise to design a menu and dishes. They have creative control (autonomy).

The chef shouldn’t be constrained in designing a new menu simply because the sous chef has never ordered beets before. If the chef needs beets and they haven’t been available to date - let’s make them available - ASAP.

In addition, the chef should focus their time on the quality of the food; testing and experimenting with the recipe, investing their energy in creating that one perfect dish. The chef should never have to worry about ensuring the kitchen has a working stove, a set of knives, pots and pans, or whether or not the fridge stays cold.

ATB’s vision for enterprise design treats our product squads like chefs. 

Robust enterprise design drives true autonomy in an agile organization. This service-focused model means squads can challenge what is possible in the market; they can create and disrupt.  

It means the squads should have a mechanism to be able to understand what is immediately available and consumable, but have a mechanism to drive back areas of need.  

Therefore, enterprise design’s primary focus is to ensure the right foundation, systems and component services are available to squads when they need them and robust enough for their mission. 

We aim to enhance autonomy and productivity by creating a process to understand what teams need, when they need it, and push more of our services up in a consumption model. 

Service, microservices, and component architectures are are readily available or served up quickly upon request. If something is unavailable or non-existent, our new lens on enterprise design means that we’re building in feedback and request mechanisms so teams can make requests and be confident we’ll work to serve up a solution. 

Providing our talented teams with the core ingredients they need to build transformative solutions means that they get to focus on what matters most: Albertans. Creative, consumer-style enterprise design is a hidden foundation we’re focused on in order to remain laser focused on our customer’s happiness.

Follow along as we continue to chronicle ATB’s Transformation.
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