15 November 2017

Architects in an Agile/Lean World

I just read this very nice post from Martin Fowler on The Role of an Enterprise Architect in a Lean Enterprise. He has a lot of good thoughts in there. 

I submit that there is one aspect lacking emphasis in this post however, the responsibility of the agile team to interact with the architect. That is, agile or not, architecture is still a thing in every organization. At some time, some person made a variety of choices about how systems should be structured, interconnected, and in some cases to be implemented. 

Those decisions were not made lightly or in a vacuum and often the consequences of changing them have far reaching consequences that may not be apparent to those without knowledge of the entire enterprise system. Consider that an architects job among other things is to deliver value to the business over an extended period of time. Part soothsayer, part Oracle, an architect should be working to further enable business objectives through technology, not just in the near term, but for the foreseeable future of the organization. 

Architects, like everyone else, are fallible human beings and they cannot foresee every circumstance. Any given project may run afoul of gaps in a generalized architecture or may struggle to integrate two technologies due to any number of compatibility factors. These are times when an agile/lean team should be reaching out to the architect for help. As Martin points out, part of the architects job is not to say 'No' but to make sure the team is fully aware of the consequences of deviations from the current technology stack. 

Failure to consult with the architect when these decision points are reached is just plain negligence. Furthermore, failure of the architect to respond and cooperate with the team is a gross dereliction of duty. Like everything else in the agile/lean world, the relationship is a partnership with a shared goal and it is incumbent on all parties to participate in that partnership; to cooperate to find solutions.

06 November 2017


I spent most of my weekend working on my NaNoWriMo book. If you aren't familiar with NaNoWriMo, the idea is to write 50,000+ words in a month, basically a novel. The degree to which you prepare for this event is entirely up to you. I've been talking about what I would write about since July, but I haven't really developed the details. 

So, I'm trying to write about gang members in Mexico, but I don't have a town name, a general description of the town, etc. I haven't even named the gang. Its all pretty vague.

So the problem with that is, nothing in the descriptions is named. Or if it is, it's in general terms. The Pontiac. The Boulevard. The Restaurant. Obviously, those are details I'll need to go back and fill in at some point. 

I've witnessed a parallel in project teams. Teams where an idea is discussed, changing the messaging infrastructure for example. The idea is discussed periodically in non-specific terms over an extended period of time, but there are never any details. 

Two things tend to happen. Often, because there is nothing concrete, the work never happens; it remains a goal that is unachieved. The other is, the work is attempted, but it is a horrid mess of a change because there wasn't agreement about the 'how and the what'. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for late binding on the 'how and what', but that ultimately has to happen. There should be a progression of work toward that 'how and what', maybe a series of spikes to prove or disprove things about the intended approach, but those need to be focused a little. Someone, someplace, has to provide a specific objective or set of criteria in order to focus the work.

There are a number of ways to get there. The Architect, as a technical product owner, can specify a set of behaviors required of the system. The Tech Lead could specify an approach, either in how the interaction should work, or even some specifics about the tool. The Director of Engineering might also have requirements about cost, platform selection, etc. Without these hints and nudges a team could drift aimlessly trying to make the change happen. 

One last thing that is essential. The work has to get scheduled. It won't just happen in between other cards on the board. The product management team must make a change important and schedule it; set a goal date for completion, or otherwise do something to cause the work to happen. Even if a development team agrees upon the importance of a change, they are beholden to the planned work. If it isn't on the schedule, it just wont happen.

03 November 2017


I live in a microcosm. 

So last week I went to SCNA and talked to a bunch of people there that I don't talk to enough. I've also been having lots of conversations about How it Should Be Done™

So many of the people I've been working with over the past 10 years or so have very similar back grounds, have read the same books and white papers, and worked in the same environments. There is a significant degree of group-think involved. 

Recently though, I've been exposed to some new people who don't have those characteristics, or rather, come from a different group. I'm learning a lot about how other people think about problems and I'm learning a lot about how other people think. 

I don't agree with some of the things I'm learning; which is to say, I've learned a few new techniques and ways of looking at problems and I don't agree that they are more effective or better than what I was already doing. I'm trying to be careful to avoid a false confirmation on these things of course.

What I find most useful about this experience is that I gives me a change to question how I've gone about solving problems for the last 25+ years. Some days it sucks, because you stand there questioning something you've been doing for 10 years and wondering if you've been 'wrong' for that long. Sometimes it's awesome because you get validation of your technique.

All of us live to some degree in a bubble created by those who surround us. All of us could be fooling ourselves every day in terms of How it Should Be Done  

I highly recommend that you get out, meet some new people (or read some new blogs) and consider that what you think you know as the right thing might be improved upon.

01 November 2017


Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month. I'm going to be one very busy camper. I hope to be able to get a few posts out each week, but coverage may be spotty. Stick with me though.