Friday, April 04, 2008

Terry Pratchett Architects

Now I'm a huge fan of Terry Pratchett and a thought just occurred to me. There are two groups of Architects who have disdain for technology
  1. Those that can't cut it in development and have escaped into Powerpoint
  2. Those who have gone through technology delivery and out the other side
Let me explain. I've worked with some very smart technology people down the years and in my job have the pleasure of meeting a lot of smart technology people (as an absolute number, as a percentage... I wish) and what I've noticed is that there is a small subset of the very best who don't actually appear to like any technology very much. Sure they can use it and make it successful but its always got limitations and its never as elegant as it should be.

The problem is that sometimes its hard to spot the difference between the prat who doesn't understand and is diminishing the importance of technology and the superlative architect who is diminishing the importance of technology because he knows what needs to be delivered but has to get everyone else bought in.

Now one advantage in rooting out the BAs (Bluffing Architects) is that they will use buzzwords all over the place and mostly use language that is more suited towards sociology than engineering. But sometimes they can be cunning and have read all of chapter 1 of a technology book. So here are my guide to checking whether someone is an Architect who has passed through (TPA) or just a Detritus (BA).

  1. Drill down - a TPA will drill into detail to find out how much you understand and so what level they have to talk to you. A BA will just say "that isn't important"
  2. Vendor X says don't do that - claim that a vendor (IBM, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft are always good ones) has said that you should do something different (e.g. buy a load of software). BA will claim their approach matches what the vendor wants "at an abstract level". TPA will explain why you are almost as much of an idiot as the vendor
  3. Say you've heard there are bugs in the proposed products - BA will say that this is the vendors problem and that the analysts rank them as leaders. TPA will say "its a product, of course its got bugs in it, but its pointless building it ourselves" or something similar
The big killer pointer though is their laptop. Not what brand it is as it could be a corporate one. The important thing is what is on there that shouldn't be... and by this I mean an IDE. Pretty much every TPA I've ever met still has at least one IDE installed.

TPAs are the most valuable architects in the IT business, they have earned the right to abuse technology because they genuinely know better. The trouble is that all to often architecture is populated by those who left development but didn't want to become project managers.

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Noons said...


Great post, Steve.

Never thought of it this way.

But I'm definitely in agreement with these categories!

graham said...

Hahahaha! Brilliant and completely true.

Now you just know in my Technical Design Authority meeting this week, when we have about 10 architects in the room, that'll I'll be spending most of my time categorizing them (and assigning them to TP characters for fun too) ... as long as I don't decide the EA is the Patrician we should be all right!

... never been so glad to have a smattering of IDEs on my laptop in my life ;)