Andrew Johnston: Architecture and Consultancy Services

Consultancy Services - An Agile Architect

An enterprise and solution architect with over 30 years’ experience, I have a passion for efficiently solving business problems through the creation of innovative solutions.

Analytical thinking, extensive cross-domain knowledge and an ability to focus on both the big picture of a complex, connected portfolio and issue details help me provide insight into problems.

Strong technical leadership, communication and influencing skills help me to drive the design and delivery of solutions which meet business needs, perform, and actively enable change.

I call myself an “agile” architect. I can quickly move between projects, roles on a project, or solving different problems. However I also understand when more formality in planning and design are required, and I have a lot of experience bringing the discipline of architecture into projects using agile methods, where more formal techniques may be less familiar.

Deploying a unique combination of managerial, commercial and technical skills, I can cover or support a variety of project roles:

  • Architect: creating solutions, or helping others to refine and formalise theirs
  • Analyst: identifying, challenging and articulating the key requirements and business case
  • Communicator: ensuring key issues are thoroughly explained and understood, and guiding balanced decision-making
  • Project Manager: structuring work appropriately for the solution, then driving delivery on critical components
  • Developer: when appropriate, directly creating solutions

My experience covers real-time, administrative, financial and infrastructural systems, in domains ranging from automotive diagnostics to insurance to utility enterprise asset management. If there is a unifying theme it’s integration: finding efficient ways to get different systems and components to work together.

My keywords are pragmatism and practicality. I look for practical solutions which solve real problems but avoid dramatic changes wherever possible. I also make sure that whatever is required can actually be done - I never expect a developer to do something I can’t do myself!

Shining a light on complexity!

Here's a bit more about how I work.

See more:

Key Achievements

Analysing complex problems, finding innovative, enduring solutions

  • Developed and promoted an integration architecture for National Grid which survived several generations of system evolution, allowing major system replacements and rationalization with minimal impact on other systems, significantly reducing costs.
  • Guided Accenture to rectify early performance and reliability problems with National Grid’s Field Force Solution, which then delivered business value for over ten years.
  • Delivered an agile shelf-edge ticketing solution for Marks and Spencer despite severe constraints on platforms, networks and a Y2K application change freeze. The new solution reduced key business process from over 14 days to a few hours.

Communication and technical leadership

  • Rescued the development of TRW’s idWorkshop programme from near cancellation. Analysed weaknesses in the prototype system, applied lessons and patterns from very different business and technical domains, and guided an international team to evolve it into a commercial offering with required scalability, reliability and usability.
  • Provided technical leadership in the migration of National Grid’s business systems to new “private cloud” data centres, co-ordinating multiple partner organisations and developing tools, standards and techniques used across the programme.
  • Articulated and promoted the vision for National Grid’s work and asset management portfolio, to drive a strategy of dramatic system rationalization and modernisation. Acted as Design Authority understanding and communicating multiple complex interactions and and coordinating the work of multiple development partners to preserve and improve the architecture’s integrity over several years.

Software development and project management

  • Developed a network orchestration platform for UBS, using Cisco, Python and open source technologies.
  • Designed a secure but flexible network architecture for National Grid’s Smart Asset Management initiative, providing an appropriate balance between strategic control, tactical innovation and long term flexibility and security.
  • Ran the procurement exercise to establish the hardware solution for that programme.
  • Developed working prototypes of several solutions, including innovative components in National Grid’s integration environment, and the idWorkshop Knowledge Base. Repeatedly demonstrated ability to quickly adopt new technologies and environments.
  • Devised a new way to document and model complex Enterprise Data Architectures.

Architecture-Related Writing

Architecture and Agile Development

As well as practicing in the field of software architecture, I am also enthusiastic about developing the discipline, the people within it, and the way it is used. I have written and presented a number of papers on software architecture and related matters, am a founder member of IASA, and run the AgileArchitect.Org website, dedicated to the practice of software architecture following the best principles of agile development.

Thoughts and Publications

My blog,Thoughts on the World, covers a number of technical topics, including architecture, agile development and detailed design issues. It's also the place to look for announcements on my products and publications.

Agile & Architecture: Code & Development:

Latest Agile and Architecture Articles

Channel Hopping Mad!

Why are digital radio and TV such exemplars of a bad user experience? In the good old days of a small number of analogue broadcast channels, watching TV or listening to the radio was a rewardingly simple process. To watch, … Continue reading

Why REST Doesn't Make Life More Rest-full

As I have observed before, IT as a field is highly driven by both fashion and received wisdom, and it can be difficult to challenge the commonly accepted position. In the current world it is barely more politically acceptable to … Continue reading

The Architect's USP

Very early on in any course in marketing or economics you will encounter the concept of the "Unique Selling Proposition", the USP, that factor which differentiates a given product or service from its competitors. It’s "what you have that competitors … Continue reading

Testing vs Modelling, Detection vs Prediction, Hope vs Knowledge

The Challenge I often hear a statement which worries me, especially but not exclusively in agile projects, along the lines of “we’ll make sure it works when we test it later”. Now you may think this is an odd view … Continue reading

Does Agile Miss The Point About Engineering?

A former colleague, Neil Schiller, recently wrote an excellent article,, on the challenge of using agile approaches in data-centric programmes. In it, he referenced and reviewed a classic cartoon by Henrik Kniberg which is often used to promote the … Continue reading

Architecture Lessons from a Watch Collection

I recently started a watch collection. To be different, to control costs and to honour a style which I have long liked, all my watches are hybrid analogue/digital models. Within that constraint, they vary widely in age, cost, manufacturer and … Continue reading

Integration Or Incantation?

I was travelling recently with Virgin Atlantic. I went to check in online, typed in my booking code and selected both our names, clicked "Next", and got an odd error saying that I couldn’t check in. I wondered momentarily if … Continue reading

How Strong Is Your Programming Language?

I write this with slight trepidation as I don’t want to provoke a "religious" discussion. I would appreciate comments focused on the engineering issues I have highlighted. I’m in the middle of learning some new programming tools and languages, and … Continue reading

Why I (Still) Do Programming

It’s an oddity that although I sell most of my time as a senior software architect, and can also afford to purchase software I need, I still spend a lot of time programming, writing code. Twenty-five years ago people a … Continue reading

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good. I’m not sure who first explained this to me, but I’m pretty sure it was my school metalwork teacher, Mr Bickle. Physically and vocally he was a cross between Nigel Green and … Continue reading

Software Design Decoded

This is a delightful little book on the perennial topic of how a software architect should think and behave. While that subject seems to attract shorter books, this one is very concise – the main content is just 66 two-page … Continue reading

Form vs Function - a Tail :) of Three Mice

Just in case you think some of my recent posts have been a bit anti-Microsoft, here’s one in which (spoiler alert!) they win! Call me old-fashioned, but I very much prefer using a mouse to a trackpad or its relatives, … Continue reading