Saturday, January 07, 2006


Enterprise Architecture and Fixing Broken Windows

A well-respected individual, co-author and prior enterprise architect used to walk the halls at work pontificating the need to fix broken windows. Of course he converted to the dark-side of management but his wisdom rings true for every large enterprise who wants to be successful...

Researchers have discovered a trigger that leads to urban decay. Once a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, the building starts to go downhill rapidly. A car can be left on a street for a week, but break one of its windows, and it will be gutted in hours. Enterprise applications also are subject to entropy. Things that used to work stop working. Ideas that seemed good at the time, seem poor three months later. Interfaces get ugly. It's easy to find yourself surrounded by code that has niggling things wrong with it, or that's just plain bad. If enterprise architects focus on entropy rather than inventory, they may see their world improve.

Instead of creating grandious lists of everything you have inventoried, enterprise architects should advocate for a budget to fix things as they see them. Within our enterprise, the term closet-cleanout was used but the notion states that everything cannot go through a business justification cycle as some things just simply need to be done.

Fix things when you see them. Refactor when you can. If you can't make the change right then, put some kind of flag in place (document in the source code if possible, otherwise note on enterprise dashboard) to at least acknowledge that you've recognized a problem, and to tell people that someone cares and is on top of it. Stop rot while it's isolated.

People respect well maintained things. The business may respect enterprise architects if they keep things well maintained. Beautifully restored vintage cars are treated with reverence. People take off their shoes when entering well-cared for houses. A good way to get others to treat your systems with respect is to keep it looking cared-for...

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