Treat solution architecture like code

We have all seen code bases that are hard to read and follow, long methods, repeated code, loads of parameters and all the other smells that literally keep us awake at night (or is that just me?)!

The larger and more complex your system gets, a non-existent or difficult to read architectural view of the system can be as bad for maintainability as a difficult to read code base. The larger your system gets (and the more people you have working on it), you will likely increase maintainability by putting attention into abstract architectural views. These views will give a point of reference allowing the team to see what they are building into, easily assess the impact of change - and perhaps more importantly support the architectural re-factoring that is often neglected.

What form this view takes (beyond the obvious boxes and lines) is very dependent upon the nature of the system. For example with very large systems with complex interactions then I find views showing the dynamic behaviour of the 'deliverables' (or the independently versioned components) gives a high enough abstract view - enough to see the dependencies across important scenarios. Often I use UML collaboration or communication diagrams, for easy explanation of the meaning, but anything that the team can understand will do.

With smaller systems you may need to go below the deliverable to see interactions between sub components. Regardless of the approach I find the best way is, just like your code, to iterate it. Ensure it is valuable to the team and proving useful. Reflect often and if you find questions not getting answered by the abstract views adjust them.