Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Apply Elegant Architecture to Your Dev Team: Part II

Previous: "Apply Elegant Architecture to Your Dev Team: Part I"

When you are creating new software, what do you think about? Don’t you think about how it will scale to meet your needs as they grow with high availability? Even if you don’t achieve that on the first try, you are still thinking about it and striving to achieve it. You know that to do it, you will need to make the right technology and architectural choices. Over time, you may need to change some of those choices to keep pace with competitors. Even if your current needs are modest, software development architecture has evolved technologies and patterns to allow software to scale from a single user to hundreds or even thousands of users on multiple platforms at multiple locations with 99.999% uptime.

If you consider your development organization in the same way, how would you apply the same thinking? What technologies are you using? What is the architecture of your organization? Will it scale from its current size to double its size? Will it scale seamlessly to include new teams in new locations? What will happen if you acquire a company? When creating software, you want to design it so that it is flexible and adapts to new circumstances. The same should be true for your development organization.

Another way to look at it is how a particular process would fare if each of the resources available were available at seemingly random times for random periods of time. This exactly describes the world of Open Source Software (OSS). At any given time you have no idea who will be contributing on what or how valuable the contribution will be. You don’t know where the contribution will come from and in many cases you don’t even know who the contributor actually is. This is an extreme example of a development situation. Even though your situation is probably not as extreme as this, by using techniques from the OSS world you will be better positioned to handle unexpected events when they inevitably occur.

Problems are an inevitable and regular part of life. Examples include illness, job change, human error, flight delays, system failure, unanticipated market changes, and natural disasters. The ability to cope with these problems is one measure of the robustness of the organization.

Part of robustness is that as things scale up or down, the impact is minimal. Tools and processes should be selected and designed to work well together whether they are used by 1 person or 10,000 . At all times, it should always feel like each individual is part of a team which is no bigger than 12 people. If practices are not scaleable from 1 to 10,000 then people can develop bad habits that resist scaling. If you develop habits that exist in a scaleable framework, then it is more likely that scaling can and will happen as and when needed.

Next: How Agile Solves Problems

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