Is This Your Story? Joe the Architect

Imagine Joe Architect as some guy architecting a large software project/team. Also imagine Thoughtworks as a representation of the latest thinking about how Joe might approach his job with the greatest effectiveness. The Thoughtworks reference is, in this case coincidental, it’s could be any set of disciplines that apply to Joe’s work.


The primary constraint is that Joe has a reasonably limited budget, he works for XYZ corp which is properly funded, but still not working in a cost vacuum. Joe has both time and budget constraints that prevent him from going absolutely hog wild. He has to deliver something within some kind of limits. He can’t simply hire Thoughtworks, much as he would like to.


Joe is a good student. He reads and absorbs all of Martin Fowler’s stuff and also sat through Neal Ford’s 7.5 hours on Continuous Delivery (Jez Humble yada) at the last NoFluff. This is all still very high level for Joe – even though he is a good student – as he knows that any single slide in the presentations he has watched and absorbed might represent days or even weeks of real life implementations to get it all in place.


The problem space is similar to the “Pick Two” sign on the wall of his car mechanic’s shop. “You want it fast, high quality, and cheap? Pick any two” Joe has literally hundreds of options available to his team, from how to refactor his code, to which of dozens of persistence stores to use, to which continuous delivery approaches to implement. He evaluate it all, and he has to direct his team without complete information. Only it isn’t pick two of three, it’s pick 5 of 300 great options.


Worst yet, the problem space is NP-Complete (see – even if you could give the problem to a computer to solve, there would be so many options that the computer could grind for days without producing it’s first decision. Just too many combinations of options to consider using brute force alone.


You know what Joe does already. He just holds a wet finger to the air and makes some decisions and his team goes to work.  That is the problem space. Does Joe have any better combination of options than just going with the direction that the wind is blowing?


Joe has too many great options.


Here’s the real kicker:

It isn’t just that Joe has a problem that he can’t solve effectively.


The real loss is that there may be one or more options, ones that he doesn’t know about, that completely transform his job from a moderate success or even partial failure, to a runaway kick ass success! Options that really make a difference. But how would he know?

He might entirely miss the important options. Lost opportunity.