Charlie Alfred’s Weblog

August 15, 2008

Welcome to Charlie Alfred’s Weblog

Filed under: Uncategorized — charliealfred @ 6:19 pm

In this blog, I will try to post challenging, thought-provoking writings about topics related to how systems provide value.  Some of the thoughts contained here follow conventional wisdom.  Others branch off and try to take a very different perspective on this problem.

My philosophy is simple: modern day systems are complicated, in many ways.  And to make matters worse, these ways interact with each other, and the whole mess evolves rather quickly.  As a result, I feel that it is vital that systems architects:

  1. Be able to understand how and where value is created by a system.  We spend an awful lot of time and money building complex systems, but too often the result is something that the designers think the users will benefit from, or don’t much care whether they benefit or not (because the system was fun to build).
  2. Be able to understand that value varies by context and situation (context is a change in external forces by location or role, situation is a change in external forces by time or circumstance).  This is especially important for product family architecture.  Many organizations pursue product families in order to achieve ROI gains by capitalizing on commonality.  Unfortunately, aggressive exploitation of commonality is often a prescription for failure.  Instead, the critical differences in challenges between contexts/situations must be understood, and a strategy that exploits commonalities while respecting these differences has a decent chance to be successful. 
  3. Understand that many different subject matters are an integral part of a system, and many different subject matter experts are needed to uncover and assess complexities.  On top of this, it is critical to realize how much these subject matters interact.  While these interactions amplify complexity, the problem is worse.  Frequently, many of these subject matter experts can be fluent in their own subject, and nearly clueless in others.  This creates a severe obstacle to communication (more specifically, our ability to actually understand what each other means).  Recognizing this situation is the first step toward addressing it.

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