Software Architect

Reuse is about people and education, not just architecture

Book: 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Author: Richard Monson-Haefel

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97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know – 26/97

You might adopt the approach that a framework that is well designed, or an architecture that is carefully considered, and cleverly implemented will lend itself to re-use within your organization. The truth is that even the most beautiful, elegant and re-usable architecture, framework or system will only be re-used by people who:
a) know it is there
b) know how to use it
c) are convinced that it is better than doing it themselves

a) Know its there

Within your organization, developers or designers need to know a design, framework, library, or fragments of code exists and where they can find all the critical information about these elements (e.g. documentation, versions, and compatibility) in order to reuse them. It is a simple, logical truth that people won’t look for things that they don’t believe to exist. You are more likely to succeed with reusable elements if the information about them is ?”pushed”.

There are any number of methods for pushing information about reusable elements in an organization. These range from wiki pages with an RSS feed providing update information, useful in very large teams, to e-mail announcing version updates in the source repository. In a tiny team, the designer or lead developer can inform his colleagues in personal conversations or shouting it across the office. Ultimately, whatever your process for communicating about reusable elements… make sure you have one, don‘t leave it up to chance.

b) Know how to use it

Understanding how to reuse an element depends on skills and training. Of course there are those people who (to use Donald Knuth‘s terminology) “resonate” with coding and design. We have all worked with them, the gifted developers and architects whose speed and depth of understanding is impressive, even scary. But these people are rare. The rest of your team might be made up of good, solid, intelligent developers and designers. They need to be taught.

Developers and designers might not know of the particular design pattern used in a design, or fully understand the inheritance model that the framework designer intended them to use. They need to be given easy access to that information in the form of up-to-date documentation, or even better, training. A little training goes a long way to ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes to reuse.

c) Are convinced that its better than doing it themselves

People, and particularly developers, tend to prefer to solve problems themselves rather than ask for help. Asking how something works is a sign of weakness, or even an indication of ignorance. This has a lot to do with the maturity and personality type of your individual team-members, “Better than doing it themselves” means different things to different people. The “young guns” on your team will always want to write things themselves because it appeases their ego, whereas your more experienced people are more likely to accept that someone else has given thought to the problem domain and has something to offer in terms of a solution.

If your team doesn‘t know where to find reusable artifacts or how to reuse them they will default to the natural, human position: they will build it themselves. And you will pay for it.

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By Swatantra Kumar

Swatantra is an engineering leader with a successful record in building, nurturing, managing, and leading a multi-disciplinary, diverse, and distributed team of engineers and managers developing and delivering solutions. Professionally, he oversees solution design-development-delivery, cloud transition, IT strategies, technical and organizational leadership, TOM, IT governance, digital transformation, Innovation, stakeholder management, management consulting, and technology vision & strategy. When he's not working, he enjoys reading about and working with new technologies, and trying to get his friends to make the move to new web trends. He has written, co-written, and published many articles in international journals, on various domains/topics including Open Source, Networks, Low-Code, Mobile Technologies, and Business Intelligence. He made a proposal for an information management system at the University level during his graduation days.

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