Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Architecture Anti-Patterns: Pattern #1 - Architecture by e-mail

Anti-patterns seem to be going a bit out of vogue these days. I like them as a way of capturing our occasional follies. I will periodically record some of them here starting with Architecture by e-mail.

AntiPattern Name: Architecture by e-mail

General Form:
Large numbers of e-mails with long chains attached are sent between architects and designers which encompass important architectural decisions.  

Symptoms and Consequences:
  • People spend a lot of time on e-mail rather than focussing on work products or deliverables.
  • Important information communicated via e-mail is lost or ends up being stored on individuals workstations.

Refactored Solution:
  • Capture important decisions in the right place (e.g. an Architectural Decisions work product and use this as the vehicle for discussing options.
  • Use meetings or conference calls to discuss options and drive out decisions.


  1. Email is great way to communicate architecture decisions, not for discuss options and drive out decisions. I think this anti-pattern isn't well-rounded or maybe its name isn't right...

    People always need to "spend" time to understand some decisions, by email or meeting.

    Your blog is great! Cheers!

  2. Hi, I agree e-mail is one way to discuss the options around architecture decisions but it is not the place to permanently capture them. For that a more permanent and central repository is needed. The problem is that e-mail has no "closure". People cannot be sure what the consensus is or what was finally agreed.