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“Sweet Tax” on Bad Architecture

Recently I read an article about various implementations of the “Sweet”, “Fat”, “High Calorie” taxes in different countries. The story of the tax stroke me as quite a good analogy to what I am currently trying to tackle. So let’s have a look on how I perceived the problem and the solution.

The problem:

High obesity rate


High cost / Slow time-2-market

Problem characteristics:

  • Complex problem (“in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe – Sense – Respond and we can sense emergent practice” [Cinefin])
  • Only long-term effects, difficult justification of corrective measures
  • Lot of arguments for and against cause & effect relations

Tax solution characteristics:

  • Taxation of one or more generally accepted sources of weight/health problems, such as single ingredients, nutrients (saturated fat, sugar…) or whole products (sugary drinks, candies)
  • Mostly flat application (with exceptions for baby products, medical products etc.)
  • Unlike e.g. alcohol/tobacco taxes, in this case some reasonable consumption of the nutrients in the matter is essential
  • Expected effect is two-sided:
    • Prevention effect that should demotivate high consumption by increasing price
    • Raising budget for funding prevention, medical expenses and so on

Has anybody ever tried to “tax” bad architecture? I’ve played around the concept of a technical debt and this might be a solution to paying off such a debt. The way I am thinking about it is following:

  • Define set of ground architecture principles to avoid big “No”s in architecture, and agree to them with all involved stakeholders. At this level the principles  are rather quite high-level to be understandable to wide audience, like “No duplication”.
  • Measure compliance to the principles on projects, report information to decision makers for consideration, track deviations and display consequences
  • Should the decision-making behavior stay the same (quick wins, dirty solutions, i.e. “eating a lot of sugary food”), introduce a tax (“Dirt tax” or “Quickie tax”:) on breaking principles to fund re-engineering later on. This would again have to be agreed with top executives and the prerequisite also is that principles are taken seriously, there is already gained trust and respect of the provided information and wide acceptance of cause & effect relation.

Standing at the beginning  – defining principles & getting buy in across the company & setting up related governance/assurance mechanisms – I am looking for insights what might be behind the horizon of what I can see right now. Anybody any experience, different (working) approach?

Categories: EA
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