Software architects and solution bands…

Huge amount of email yesterday on the “Not invented here” communication anti-pattern. Interestingly most of it was in favor/support of the communication type. One writer included an idea that I’ve expanded a bit – it was a great idea and I offered the writer credit but he said no.

Solution Bands the concept that my friend shared.

Within the concept of what you are designing and building there is a band. Part of the band is the reality of tolerance. Examples of this are business specific and include financial, risk and mission alignment.

A financial band for a solution is actually quite interesting. The real band of the solution is the cost – the income generated. Where the result SHOULD ALWAYS BE A NEGATIVE NUMBER. In fact some organizations will give you a band of return. In other words if the cost of a solution is X, then the end result has to be that solution generated X2 income. IE the cost of a solution has to be less than 1 year’s returned value to the business. Other business’s are willing to push that out to 24 and 36 months. But the reality is that cost has to generate income.

Organizations have risk bands as well. The risk band can be dependent on the financial band or independent. There are organizations that consider risk and then reject the solution wholly based on the risk profile. That rejection doesn’t take into account the financial impact of the solution but rather is the organization willing to bear the risk. The old adage with great risk comes great rewards doesn’t tell the tale of organizations that beg big (and bet wrong) and are no longer among us. Some organizations live in the risk band and will not take big risks.

The final band is the mission band or organization strength. There are many companies that litter the trash bin that were so focused on a single mission they were unable to take advantage of new innovations. They live within the ways things are band. Their focus is on what they are really good at. Unless your mission is defined for you (Government Agencies) as an organization this should be the are of flexibility. There are two great examples of organizational flexibility and inflexibility. My personal favorite is Edison Industries. Once the sole purveyor of theater projectors in the world. Once the sole owner of films and film creation in the world. Held a very tight reign and lost it. We don’t think of Edison as the creator of the film industry but he was. He just lost control in the mission band. On the other side he was also in the broader phonograph and other business were he let others build them as well and frankly was far more successful in that.

Architectures and in particular overall software solutions live inside of an organization. Inside that organization there are bands you have to be aware of. There are communications styles that in the end will get you, but the bands will also get you in the end.

If you want to think of them as rubber bands its probably a good idea. You see the more bands you intersect the more likely you are to be the watermelon in the linked video. Organizational agility is what software architects need to help their organization achieve. Otherwise. well watch the video you see what happens when the bands of your organization continue to tighten.

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Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.