Hitchhiker's Guide to Software Architecture and Everything Else - by Michael Stal

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Danger Seekers - A day in the life of an anonymous software architect

  • 08.00h: Scanning the e-mail for any recent project catastrophes.
  • 08.15h: Asking the product manager and the requirements engineer what the customer means with "system should never fail but there is no extra budget for replication hardware and software".
  • 09.00h: Meeting with subsystem developers, because they didn't follow the architecture design nor any guidelines. Told me that they understood every detail from the strategic architecture document I have conceived and written. However, they assume, I were not able to understand my own architecture which is why they tried to illustrate what they think I should have meant.
  • 10.25h: Telephone conference with outsourcing site. They didn't know what interfaces to provide and what interfaces to use. Discussed the same issue over and over again with different people in the past but obviously they didn't share the information in the team.
  • 12.00h: Having lunch with the project manager and a software process consultant for iteration planning. We are behind schedule and aleady exceeded the budget. Our table was surrounded by staff from other projects where they kept complaining about architects, senior management and the rest of the universe. What a motivating lunch.
  • 13.15h: Talking to the testers. They are a little bit unhappy because some managers told them that they don't need to test as this would endanger the release date. According to this manager, the project got high quality developers who provide high-quality code. Thus, testing is overkill. Could raise their motivation after showing them the newest Dilbert cartoons.
  • 13.35h: Talking to an external consultant. He is not familar with the domain, nor with the technologies. To be honest, I am not sure whether he got any expertise. Only recently he got his university degree. But senior management is relying on his statements as he is employed at one of those famous consulting companies. "They never make any mistakes", one of my senior managers mentioned.
  • 14.30h: A middleware vendor is explaining why her product could solve all the project's problems. It can even solve problems we don't have. What a cool technology!
  • 15.56h: One of the developers is calling me. He asks me to explain again why patterns are so important. He fears, applying patterns is reducing his creativity. Moreover, his productivity will also suffer as he must read all those pattern descriptions.
  • 16.20h: The phone is ringing. It is our senior manager. He urgently needs some slides on the ROI of software architecture with some concrete numbers. He obviously knew that this presentation would be required for weeks, but one day before the meeting he is asking me for help. I must keep calm.
  • 16.45h: Speaking with some developers. I just found out they have never built any Java EE application before. Our management thought, they are so smart that they could learn Java EE in a few days. That is what they call training on the job. I've decided to schedule some seminar days where I will provide them a Java EE hands-on-training.
  • 17.20h: Some of the tests have failed. The product managers sent me some vague new customer requirements - all of them with highest priority. Software engineering drives me crazy.
  • 18.20h: Reading the news. The new operating system will be postponed to next year. It is the goal to add some new features in the meantime and to further improve the quality. Going where no man has gone before, as it seems. A friend of mine working on the OS had told me some other background stories. Something about severe quality problems and the like. For heaven's sake, we are not alone!
  • 19.45h: Drinking beer with some project members. Interesting to hear some war stories from earlier projects that failed. After several drinks my colleagues become very informative and open-minded about what they really think about the project. Should I quit tomorrow and search for a better job? No, that wouldn't make any difference.
  • 23.30h: Reading some new technology stuff and one of the cool architecture web sites. This way I am learning a lot about new technologies. But, of course, the best technologies in the hands of some insane software developers or, even worse, managers can cause a lot of harm.
  • 00.30h: Very exhausted now. It is time to go to bed.
  • 06.00h: The alarm clock is ringing. What a nightmare. I had a dream of a meeting with managers who presented their favourite software architecture to me. Then I got the task to improve their architecture. Whenever I was done, a new meeting was arranged where they confronted me with yet another architecture and the whole pain started again. I could feel Sysyphos' pain.
  • 08.00h: A new working day full of joy, honour and interesting conversations is waiting.


  • Mike,

    Will there be any good moments at all(not just in a day but for a architect)?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:21 PM  

  • In fact, software architecture is my favourite activity as I can switch between concept level and implementation. In addition, I can talk to all these stakeholders which is a challenge but also a benefit. What I wanted to emphasize in this postings are two things, that communication is an essential part of the job, and that an architect must also balance forces and master difficulties.

    By Blogger Michael, at 7:03 PM  

  • So recognizable... unfortunately

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:14 PM  

  • Hi Michael! Where are you located?

    /Harald Normann


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:16 PM  

  • Hi,

    I am located in Munich happily working for Siemens. But in contrast to a possible wrong conclusion this is not an extract of my daily professional life. It is more a parody of stories I experienced or heard by others :-))


    By Blogger Michael, at 5:27 PM  

  • Internet security should be in the front of every ones mind. If you are travelling any where and using your laptop or mobile device then you need to use a VPN to protect your information and identity. I found a site comparing the best ones http://thebestproxyserver.com/private-internet-access-vpn-review/

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:21 AM  

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