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3 is a good number

Last time I talked about always having Enterprise Architecture (EA) provide options with their recommended solution architecture. I also mentioned that you shouldn’t have too many options. I suggest to always shoot for 3.


Let’s say the business is looking to enable certain new capabilities. They immediately reach out to their IT partners. You’re now jointly trying to figure out how to solution for these new capabilities. Here are the 3 options to start sketching out:

  1. The ideal solution. This is the solution that solves for all the business capabilities and technical requirements. It’s the EA perfectionist’s dream solution. It gets everyone what they want avoiding any nasty arguments. Well, maybe it upsets the finance guy/gal as it might also blow the budget and build capability that is a bit overkill. Or, this might be just the right thing to do

  2. The Minimal Viable Product (MVP). This solution gets the must haves done. It gets you started down the path. Call it your version 1. It’s likely also very affordable. If you need the nice to haves you add them later.

  3. The sweet spot. If (1.) or (2.) are not viable options then this is the one that strikes the right balance between enabled business capability and affordability. By creating option (1.) and option (2.) the team gets a feel for the bookends. Which in turn lets them hone in on an ideal solution.

I want to reiterate that option (1.) or option (2.) can be very viable options. It is not always (3.) that wins. Also if the price difference between (1.) and (2.) is not substantial just go with (1.). (3.) Might also be just a multi-phased plan where the MVP is version 1 and (3.) is version X.


Another scenario I see a lot is that the business comes to IT after they have already decided at a high level how (what software) should be used to solve their business problem. It’s the one they just got this glitzy sales pitch on or saw at a convention they went to. We’ve all been there.

  1. The proposed option from the business. Unless there is some glaring flaw in what the business was thinking you’ve got to look at their proposal and fine-tune it with all the non-functional requirements they never even considered.

If the business got it right and found the perfect software to add to the mix then follow the schema above

  1. The Minimal Viable Product (MVP)

  2. The sweet spot

If you think the business got it wrong and the software they found is not needed then

  1. The ideal solution

  2. The sweet spot

I’m sure you’ve encountered all kinds of scenarios but i recommend staying with the 3 options. At least from the get go. Later if you determine 2 or 4 is the right number go for it.


Same is true for analysis like your cloud strategy. Show 3 scenarios:

  1. All in the cloud

  2. All on-premise

  3. The sweet spot. Some hybrid situation


Ok, I gave you 3 examples so I’m done!

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