Archive for September, 2013

A Reference Architecture for Enterprise Architecture

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First I have to declare that while I’ve never worked with Phil I have worked in the same organization and I do know him. So with any conflict of interest covered off we can now get down to business.

There are lots of books that will offer either directly or discursively a reference architecture. But typically these focus either a particular technology or problem domain. This book is different its focus is EA as it says in the early pages it is an aid to learning how to do EA.

Despite what the Open Group would have you believe there are many architectural methodologies around and in my humble opinion one of the best is Scott Bernard’s EA3 Framework. (Reviewed on this site).

One of the problems that confronts,  particularly inexperienced architects, is tackling the chosen framework. What techniques need to be applied? Where should the effort be concentrated? And often, after not very long, why are we doing this bit? It’s about this time that having lost their way that projects typically reach crisis point.

What this book does is give you nine succinct sections, one for each layer of the model. Each section is an about twenty pages of good hard executable advice. Many of the questions could be and have been argued ad nauseam  leading projects into the analysis paralysis that is the fate of so many projects. For example “Don’t labour on the shared enterprise and business services”, in two paragraphs the book  puts the issue to bed and that’s typical of its no nonsense approach. One feature I like is that the Conclusion and Summary chapter is only one page.

Following the nine sections are a series of appendices that include an audit model, lists of questions and examples and some suggested reading. Unlike many appendix which are kind of the author’s bottom desk draw there is some real gold in these particularly for the new architect.

While this book is written with a particular methodology in mind and that in itself limits its applicability that should not be used as an excuse for ignoring it. This is a book for Enterprise Architects with a lot of hard won wisdom in it that will earn its place on your bookshelf. Highly recommended, for all sorts of reasons.

Woodworth, P.A. 2013, A Reference Architecture for Enterprise Architecture, Phil Woodworth, Sydney

ISBN: 9780646595276

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Quality or Over Engineering?

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time investigating a system that’s been around for about ten years. Like many systems the developers are long gone and the system, ticking over reliably, has been ignored.  Well its time to replace the system and also like many other similar systems no one actually knows what the thing does! As usual the documentation shows little sign of maintenance and inspires even less confidence. There’s only one thing for it, you have to go and read the code.

This proved to be more difficult than you can imagine.  Besides there being no comments in the code, remember that old habit? At every turn every possible function had been abstracted sometimes three or four times. Component after component turned out to be little more than a container for the next  level of function.

Don’t get me wrong I’m as keen on the separation of concerns as the next architect.  But, in this case the result was a ridiculous ratio of functional  code to packaging that simply made comprehension more difficult. Well I got to thinking  about how this came about. The developers had plainly written the code for maximum reuse and extensibility, the problem was that ten years later none of it had been used and the resulting complexity and a lack of  documentation made the system almost incomprehensible.

So the question  must be asked when is it quality and when is it over engineering?

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So What Makes You an Architect?

The other week, I’m being deliberately obtuse to spare some the embarrassment, I had to engage with a number of people, some in my organization others from outside.

What struck me was that everybody was an architect! But wait a minute I thought are they really?

The first architect I encountered was a Java architect. All he wanted to do was change my spec into the easiest possible code to write. That’s not very architectural. No he wasn’t an architect he was a developer I concluded.

The second architect I engaged goes under the title Enterprise Application Architect. Sounds pretty grand! Problem is I’ve known this guy for over twenty years. He has no technology foundation. He couldn’t program his micro wave. His entire career has been spent in management! He wasn’t even a particularly good project manager. He’s not an architect he’s a manager.

Anyway as the week progressed I was called on to hire an “architect” . Unfortunately, there was no shortage of applicants. But as I plowed through them I came to the conclusion that they were mostly developers, the odd project manager and a couple of escapees from the call center.

So it being Friday afternoon and me being exhausted by my fruitless search I thought I’d take a different tack. Like all good architects I’d concentrate on asking the right question.

The next applicant’s CV boldly declared he was an experienced architect. By this stage this was like a red flag to a bull.

My opening question was “Do you have any certification? Not that I’m convinced by that. “No” . “Have you been on any architecture training courses?”. “No”, was the slightly sheepish response. No surprises there.

“Okay, have you ever read a book on architecture?” I could see the poor guy was desperate to say yes to something. And for a moment I saw it in his eyes, but then he thought better of it as no doubt the possible follow up questions started to occur to him.” Actually no”.

“Do you actually have a business card that says architect?” Not that I’m impressed by that either. A very sheepish “No”.

Sensing blood, I honed in. ” So you have no training, no experience and you can’t even be bothered reading a book on architecture.” I paused for dramatic effect, after all it was Friday afternoon.

“So what makes you an architect?”

Well, that was it it he got up and left. I guess he wasn’t an architect.

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