Archive for June, 2014

$harp Practice

I’ve commented on the questionable ethics of some consultants previously, but something I witnessed recently prompts me to revisit the issue.

In the last three or so years in particular I suspect that I’ve witnessed, initially unnoticed, a growing tendency for consultancies to see clients’ projects increasingly in terms of cash flow and less as problems that need solutions. It seems that they care little about the outcome and obscure progress, or more often lack of it, with activity. They keep projects going even when they know they should red flag them just to keep the cash rolling in.

But recently, I’ve noticed a new twist to this game that impacts architects directly. One of the all time favorite architectural principles is “buy before you build”. It’s very simple reduce your risk and speed your delivery by buying COTS components where it makes sense. And making sense is a pretty simple arithmetic exercise. If you can buy it for the same or less than your build estimate then all things being equal you’re probably better off buying it.

Well, in one recent incident I’m aware of the architecture has been rejected because it wasn’t based on open source and so free software. This sudden conversion to open source turned out on examination, there was basically no open source equivalent, to be a curious choice.

After much wriggling and a number of long awkward silences the truth, as always, emerged. The consultants had factored the client’s entire budget in as services, which would naturally be carried out by them. And so when the architecture called for the purchase of some software they didn’t like that because the numbers were already in the forecast!

The lesson is clear. Set your principles and insist that your consultants explain if they deviate from them.

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The Wrong Answer

I am frequently appalled by the lack of rigor in this craft and this has been recently highlighted to me by a linguistic habit that I suspect comes from a younger generation. ( Sorry guys feel free to have a hack at the old bastard!)

That is the use of the answer Yes/No to a question.  As I pointed out to one of our juniors Yes and No are binary. If architecture is about driving out ambiguity then this kind of answer is unacceptable.  I suspect that this structure is the consequence of not wanting to convey information that might be construed as  “bad news” to ones superiors or clients . If this is the case then the organization needs to take as serious look at the behavior of its leaders because they are responsible for this. They are suppressing information for their own comfort that ultimately the organization will pay for.

Answers, particularly architectural answers,  are not about making the boss feel good. They are about logically and concisely passing on information.  As the mediation gurus say it is neither good nor bad it just is. If you can’t handle that then you’re not leadership material and I suggest you get out of the way because things are hard enough without the irrational bullshit.

For those of you with an academic inclination I suggest looking up Jerry Luftman’s work. His work on alignments suggests a set of maturities that an organization must develop and guess what’s  top of  his list … communication!

Anyway, I’m going to finish off with a list of similar useless communicative structures and what they really signify. I wonder how many you’ve encountered this week? If you’ve got any favorites I’d like to hear them.

  • Just …. As in just do this or that … I haven’t thought it through.
  • All …. As in all you need to do is …. I haven’t thought it through.
  • I think …. As in a response to how does this work? … I don’t know.
  • Well basically … I don’t have a clue
  • I’d like … I ‘m not sure what, but something like … I don’t have a clue
  • I want … I want this or that … I don’t know what I need
  • Oh! it works like that! …. I was bluffing before I don’t really know anything about it
  • The specification could be interpreted in different ways … its not a specification or I haven’t actually read it and I was bluffing before.
  • It’s in the design … As in how does this work? … Don’t ask me I was hoping someone else would figure it out!

 

 

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