March 1, 2023

Collaborative Software Design: How to facilitate domain modeling decisions


Designing a software system is difficult. Understanding the context in which a software system lives is more difficult. In order to understand that context, developers need to communicate with the business. But there is a lot that can go wrong while communicating with the business. 

For example people can misunderstand what is being said, they are scared to speak up, tensions could grow, and conflict can arise. These social dynamics cause groups to stop sharing their knowledge, which can end up in resistance behaviour from sarcastic jokes, to stopped communication or even not showing up or leaving the session. No wonder a lot of organisations resort to a more autocratic form of decision-making, where one person, the architect, analyses and makes the decision. If we want to make sustainable design decisions for our architecture that is embraced by everyone, it is better to use visual techniques to make assumptions more explicit which will improve collaboration between developer teams and the domain experts.

In this talk we will introduce you to collaborative modelling and its social dynamic challenges. Collaborative modelling is a visualisation technique to analyse complex and conflict-laden decision-making processes with all relevant stakeholders and decision-makers to create a shared understanding. And some, maybe even most of these sessions need to be facilitated so that everyone can feel a part of the decision and can potentially give the input they have. I will explain why it requires us to have a different skills set like observing, listening, trying to stay neutral and show compassion. Because that improved collaboration will let software teams understand better the context and underlying problems the business has. That understanding enables the software teams to design and build sustainable quality software products.

Kenny Baas-Schwegler

As a socio-technical systems thinker, agile architect, and Domain-Driven Design expert, I work with CTOs, managers, architects, and teams to change how we design software. Through facilitating and doing collaborative modeling, I catalyze organizations, teams, and groups of people to an agile architecture approach to building sustainable quality software products.

See all my slides at