Thursday, February 26, 2004

Part 2: Architecture - we need a better analogy

It struck me that what we call architecture is more a kin to town planning. Town planning involves various skills that any architect would not claim to have. It involves taking into account what is currently in existence, forecasts of certain trends of change in a particular locality and the production of a 'Town plan' to provide a framework for those changes subject to either local authority funding or speculative development. In this way a town or city can remain flexible for longer term trands such as population changes, age of current infrastructure and quality of life issues of its citizens. When a town plan is put out it is never expected to proscribe the colours of building or even the style of building beyond broadbrush categories such as industrial or residential. It is left to the local planning authority to authorise actual plans and to use the 'structural plan' to decide if a particular submission is conforms and also if it will enhance the location, through some defined criteria - will it bring jobs, is it esthetically pleasing, etc.

So who are the players involved in these activities:

Enterprise CIO are the Town Planners - they should draw up and maintain the structural system plan. This is a schematic map of the business as if it were a town detailing both what is there, what is available for change and what is not (brown field sites, conservation areas, etc) and any aspirations for the locality (attract tourist, reduce car traffic, better schools, etc). There should be no illusions that this structural plan will be ever completed, or that the detailed results can be anticipated from it - for example an initiative to attract work may cause ugly factories to be built.

The Enterprise CTO are the advisers to the Town Planners - they advise as to what is possible so that the Structural plan is scoped within the art of the possible rather that completely off the wall. For example they may advise on the forms of Public Transport that the CIO might sanction.

In larger companies the Divisional CIO/CTO have a dual role as in the current Local Authorities - They are involved in the detailed structural plans where they affect their local area. They would lobby for changes as they see the need and they would be responsible for making sure that any developments conform to that plan. This dual role of setting some of the detail and authorizing the change can be seen in Wholesale where the CIO employs both the Architect and the Design Assurance teams.

Part 3 to follow

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Part 1: Architecture - we need a better analogy

I have been puzzling for some time as to why Architecture in Software and Systems terms is treated with such respect by Senior Management yet is treated with scant regard by most day to day projects and developments. Alongside this question, is the scorn that the word 'Strategic' causes and the complete lack of expectation that any architecture will in fact become a reality.

If you examine Architecture in terms of buildings you see that it is aimed at providing both the conceptual impression of what buildings will look like and also going all the way through to supervising all the detailed design of the building and its components. For example an Architect friend of mine who designed the Norwich Swimming Pool recently opened, not only put the models and pictures to win the competition, but he also specified the quality of the door handles and other fitting used in the building. This happened over the time of the project. This picture of Architecture is very different from our rather ephemeral beast.

An initial post to welcome me to the world of the blogs.

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