Why vs. How

In a heated discussion with a colleague yesterday I blurted something out that.. while at the time seemed trivial, was actually a relatively thought-provoking assertion. I yelled “It’s not the how you care about anymore.. it is the why!”..

Hmm.. wtf does that mean?

Well, this is the way I see it. When I was working as a Solution Architect building software for different companies, I spent most of my time figuring out the nuts an bolts behind a solution. How do we implement this pattern? How do I configure this server? How do we design this widget. Very specific, tactical,…. focused. But.. for the last 3 years I have been doing something a slight bit different. These hows.. are essentially not as important (at least to me). 

But why?

In a profession where it is actually very hard to qualify the work we do, I have found it is easier to describe myserlf as an Enterprise Architect rather than any other particular IT role. In reality, I am a combatant in the battle against doing things the wrong way for the wrong reason. Most of my time is spent working with numerous technology teams, helping them identify and implement solutions to problems that span organizational boundaries. Sometimes they are business problems identified and rationalized by a business group, and sometimes they are purely architectural uplift. In either case, I find myself being forced to justify my recommendations based on my current knowledge and past experiences (duh 😉 ). That substantiation typically manifests itself as me describing WHY some particular team should do something some particular way. I say things like “because that is the appropriate system of record for that data”.. or “because SOA principles dictate XYZ…”. It’s almost dissatisfiying in some way.

enough commentary… I am not complaining as much as I am adding gypsum to the concrete that defines my role. As a Solution Architect, I spent my time with a much more focused mission; “Do this thing and do it this way”. Stepping away from that to the more abstract world of Enterprise Architecture, I spend my time saying “this is WHY you do this thing this way”.



The New & Improved definition of “real-time”

This is a line directly from the HP Shopping site in the Security and Support section for one of the Laptops I am thinking about buying:

This series is backed by a one-year warranty10 on hardware with award-winning service and support. You get:

  • Real-time chat and e-mail (with a response in about an hour)
  • Access to on-line …….

I LOVE that.. I wish I could say the same to my client.. “you will get the response in real-time, which  is about an hour…. ”


Somebody has to think about the perfect solution…

It’s true. Somebody does. As an Architect, it is sort of my charter. The challenge I run into is related to the fact that the perfect solution, while possibly perfect technically, is not only subjective, but is typically not perfect to the business stakeholder. I get it.. I am all about meeting the businesses needs by making trade-offs.. etc. BUT.. I still think.. SOMEBODY needs to give the business their options. “Do it this way.. and it costs you 7$.. but you don’t get the -ilities you really want and don’t know you want.. OR.. do it this way and it will cost you 14$, but you are getting all the things I think you really need.. “. Alot more could be said right here, but the point is made.

Most of the time, the business stakeholders will genuinely pay lip service to the 14$ solution.. but happily skip to their VPs with the 7$ solution and tell them it meets the needs of the project.

In the end, the “right way” is the responsibility of me.. the Architect.. to consider and evangelize. How to do that is something that is essentially defined by the environment I am working. In some places, it is documented and placed on the “we will fix it later” shelf.. in others, it is considered to controversial and never even documented.. yet in others, the prefect solution is placed in a roadmap and seen as the mythical Point of Arrival!

more later

how many times have I done this?

I have tried and failed to create a blog about 10 times.. maybe this one will stick