2010-08-18

The Architect vs. Superman.

I consider that there are really two types of workers in the IT field: The Architects and the Supermen. A mature Superman realizes that they cannot continue racing against time and performing super feats in order to save the enterprise. An immature Superman thinks this is the way things should be done.


There is an old joke I heard when I was in the Marine Corps. A young bull walks up to an old bull and says excitedly “Hey, lets run down this hill jump over the fence and have our way with one of those cows down there!!!”. The old bull looks up from chewing some grass, looks at the fence, gazes over the cows on the field, and then looks at his young friend. “No, let’s walk down the hill, crawl under the fence and have our way with all of them.”


A little planning can go a long way towards a successful project. In my opinion Architected solutions that have built in flexibility lend themselves towards ease of extensibility. I once wrote a system that required data to be loaded from a flat file into a very specific structure. Instead of simply writing the code to move the data from one table to the other using a stored procedure that was 5 pages long, I simply inserted the data into an intermediate table with some extra columns for housekeeping and data matching.


We were able to re-use that structure for a half-dozen later projects. So instead of each time figuring out how to put the data into the target structure and duplicating the code repeatedly to update the housekeeping and matching, we simply put the new data into the intermediate structures and let the normal process work.
I was told later that before I got there the developers would have re-written all of that code multiple times with each one being coded slightly different.


There are times when it is tempting to break out the mountain dew and pull an all-nighter. But if you are doing this a number of times to “keep the business going” then I contend that someone in your organization needs to go back to the drawing board or modeling tool of choice with your business users and make sure that everyone understands the fundamental business and technical process to keep the business running.


Those of you who say that the business process and the technical processes are totally separate need to consider the following: If the business is not making money, then who is paying your check? For those business users who think they don’t need to be involved in technical decisions, consider this: If you shut down your data center for 2 days, or even 2 hours, would your business process continue? We are all in this together.


I titled this article the Architect vs. Superman; however there really is no battle, because if you have an architecture for your IT applications, data, security, quality, testing and infrastructure then you don’t need superman.
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