Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Not to Create Artitecture

What should we do if we just want to create a SOA (same old architecture) rather than a TOA (totally outrageous artitecture)? Here are five things you should do if you want average rather than exceptional architectures (antipatterns for ineffective architecture if you like):
  1. Focus on what your employer wants you to do (your job) rather than what your client wants you to do (your work). How much time is the project team spending excessively networking obsessing over recording data that is not project related and of dubious use anyway or attending endless meetings which don't have a clear agenda or any useful outcome.
  2. Start committees instead of taking action. Like most things in life the best architectures don't come from committees but come from the focussed efforts of a small team of architects. Sometime that small team can be just one person (consider Tim Berners-Lee's world-wide web or Ray Ozzie's Lotus Notes). Committees (we call them Design Authorities in technical circles) may have their place when multiple stakeholders need to be bought together but don't confuse governance (i.e. controlling the steady-state) with design (i.e. initiating a change of state). Unfortunately there is safety in committees where there is no single person responsible for decisions and no one individual can be blamed when something goes wrong.
  3. Create a culture of blame and negative criticism where everyone has to watch their back. Many people on projects interact with others as though they are better than their peers or want to teach them a lesson. Others assign motivations and plots where there are none. Still others criticise anyone who is doing something differently from the norm. Mistakes happen and are usually the result of a series of unfortunate events rather than deliberate negligence or dishonesty. Learn from mistake and move on.
  4. Stop people from learning. Not allowing or fostering a learning culture is probably one of the gravest crimes that can be committed in the conceptual age. Learning does not just have to come from attending classroom based courses (or the dreaded “online training”) but should come from everything we do. Treat every type of interaction with a person (talking to them, reading their blog or whatever) as an opportunity to learn something new.
  5. Produce overly complex and outlandish work products. The problem with many delivery processes is that they can demand large numbers of work products that, when taken literally, will pull the team down into a never ending spiral of “document production” where every deliverable has to be signed off before progress can be made. Delivery processes and the work products they produce should be highly customised to the projects needs not the needs of stakeholders that demand huge volumes of written material which no one needs let alone reads.
Not having any/all of these is not a cast-iron guarantee you will succeed in building great systems based on innovative architectures but having them will certainly ensure you have architectures not artitectures.

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