Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Structural Imbalance - In Software Systems

We come across many instances in the industry where "code-lumps" get deployed as software services/products with a beautiful UI included to cover up all the ugliness underneath. The design document too look fancy with usages of software patterns neatly listed. After all this stunt, these modules end up with a short life-span and before long, there are in-numerous critical issues being raised. 
In majority of these cases, product owners were forced into releasing these "code-lumps" that just weren't ready, while in other cases the anointed "architect" had no clues to why the "code-lumps" exist and why the pattern was used. At the first look, the software does appear to function as desired with all the components "working" great in the demos.

How could these be avoided in the first place ?

Just like in typical broken buildings we see across the road, structural imbalance refers to modules that doesn't making sense together. Individually, these chosen components / patterns appear perfect for the problem at hand but they just don't sync enough; structurally.
Right from a birds-eye/logical view to the drilled-down/code view, its critical that a dedicated team of architects reach consensus on the many choices being made every day by engineers.
Only if the team of architects had identified the applicable Non-Functional-Requirements (NFR) and defined them initially. Architects and the team of software designers could drill down into one or modules for a detailed design before coding. 
Though check-ins could be allowed from all engineers, none of it should reach the release pipeline until all the "code-lumps" were removed. Architects & designers must agree that the code comply towards the agreed NFR before promoting the code up its life-cycle.
Working closely with the architects, the product owner would now be more confident in communicating with the stake holders.
Do look forward related article on "Why all software engineers must NOT automatically become an 'Architect' " ; which in addition to looking at skill & interest, also touches upon the essential philosophical outlook required by any upcoming architect.

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