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Independent Service Heuristics

Independent Service Heuristics (ISH) is a technique invented by the authors of Team Topologies, Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais.

ISH is an intermediate approach that can help to introduce the principles of DDD without some of the abstract terminology that can often be a barrier to the adoption of DDD.

ISH are simple rules-of-thumb or clues that can be used to identify candidate value streams and domain boundaries by seeing if they could be run as a separate SaaS/cloud product.


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Uncovering potential domain or service boundaries

Once a candidate domain, service, application, or value stream has been identified, the next step is to go through a series of questions to identify whether we have found a good candidate for being a separate stream of change.


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8. Dependencies: Would this team be able to act independently of other teams to achieve their objectives?

  • Is this thing logically independent from other things?
  • Could the team "self-serve" dependencies in a non-blocking manner from a platform?


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Choosing an area of focus

Decide where to focus the attention.

Essentially we just need to choose an area of the business that needs to be represented in software.

This could be a user journey, a “product”, a possible business domain, a software service, an entire software application, a set of tasks for a si...


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5. Data: Is it possible to clearly define the input data (from other sources) that this thing needs?

  • Is the thing dependent on lots of data from multiple sources? Or fairly independent?
  • Are the sources internal (under our control) or external?
  • Is the input data clean or messy?
  • Is the input data provided in a self-service way? Can the team consume the input data "as a...


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Identifying boundaries with Domain Driven Design

When we first think of the terms “domain” or “boundary” in a software context it is likely that our first thoughts may be of Domain-Driven Design (DDD).



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1. Sense-check: Could it make any logical sense to offer this thing "as a service"?

  • Is this thing independent enough?
  • Would consumers understand or value it?
  • Would it simplify execution?


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2. Brand: Could you imagine this thing branded as a public cloud service?

  • Would it be a viable business (or "micro-business") or service?
  • Would it be a compelling offering?
  • Could a marketing campaign be convincing?


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3. Revenue/Customers: Could this thing be managed as a viable cloud service in terms of revenue and customers?

  • Would it be a viable business (or "micro-business") or service?
  • What would a subscription payment include?
  • Is there a clearly defined customer base or segment?


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Exploring boundaries using Independent Service Heuristics

“Could this thing be run as a cloud-hosted (SaaS) service or product?”


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4. Cost tracking: Could the organization currently track costs and investment in this thing separately from similar things?

  • Are the full costs of running this thing transparent or possible to discover? Consider infrastructure costs, data storage costs, data transfer costs, licence costs, etc.
  • Is the thing too interconnected with other things in the organization? Or fairly separate?
  • Does the organi...


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An Independent Service Heuristics example

An Independent Service Heuristics example

Footprints Tours offers ‘alternative’ walking tours of cities exploring their social and cultural history.

They provide both guided and self-guided tours and have implemented a monolith website and mobile application to serve all of their customer needs.

The first step would ...


16 reads

6. User Personas: Could this thing have a small/well-defined set of user types or customers (user personas)?

  • Is the thing meeting specific user needs?
  • Do we know (or can we easily articulate) these user types and their needs?


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10. Product Decisions: Would the team working on this thing be able to own their own product roadmap and the product direction?

  • Does this thing provide discrete value in a well-defined sphere of execution? 
  • Can the team define their own roadmap based on what they discover is best for the product and its users or is the team always driven by the requirements and priorities of other teams?


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7. Teams: Could a team or set of teams effectively build and operate a service based on this thing?

  • Would the cognitive load (breadth of topics/context switching) be bounded to help the team focus and succeed?
  • Would significant infrastructure or other platform abstractions be needed?


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9. Impact/Value: Would the scope of this thing provide a team with an impactful and engaging challenge?

  • Is the scope big enough to provide an impact? Would the scope be engaging for talented people?
  • Is there sufficient value to customers and the organization that the value would be clearly recognized?


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Full time dad and IT enthusiast for the rest.

The Independent Service Heuristics (ISH) are rules-of-thumb (clues) for identifying candidate value streams and domain boundaries by seeing if they could be run as a separate SaaS/cloud product. The ISH approach is a “rapid results” approach, and complementary to the approaches from Domain-driven Design (DDD).

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