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Thread: Software architects that don't write code . . .

  1. #1
    Matthew Cromer Guest

    Software architects that don't write code . . .


    Software architects that don't write code, coders who get all their marching
    orders from the architects. Is this for real? I interviewed recently for
    a Microsoft Consulting position and was told by the folks I spoke with that
    I would be doing a lot of architecture work but not much code at all. I'm
    doing a lot of architecture now, and so does the rest of the team. We all
    do a lot of coding as well. I don't see that in the current state of software
    practice that it makes sense to be "just a software architect" who doesn't
    code. The only way I know whether my designs will work is to code them into
    real systems. Now coding without architecture we all know doesn't work--it's
    what Steve McConnell calls "code and fix development".

    I'm wondering if there are some software architects out there who don't think
    they need to code much if at all--that they can just hit it dead right from
    the architectural design and the coding specialists can implement it themselves,
    and the resulting systems turn out great.

    Matthew Cromer

  2. #2
    Thomas Eyde Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .

    I haven't thought about it that way before. Maybe because I, like you, does
    coding and designing. Besides, it gives me a 'kick' to watch working code
    (and another big one in the b* when it doesn't).

    You state coding without design doesn't work, could we turn it around and
    say: Architecture without coding doesn't work?

    --
    /Thomas
    thomas.eyde@eunet.no


    Matthew Cromer <matthew@sdaconsulting.com> wrote in message
    news:398e3c03$1@news.devx.com...
    >
    > Software architects that don't write code, coders who get all their

    marching
    > orders from the architects. Is this for real? I interviewed recently for
    > a Microsoft Consulting position and was told by the folks I spoke with

    that
    > I would be doing a lot of architecture work but not much code at all. I'm
    > doing a lot of architecture now, and so does the rest of the team. We all
    > do a lot of coding as well. I don't see that in the current state of

    software
    > practice that it makes sense to be "just a software architect" who doesn't
    > code. The only way I know whether my designs will work is to code them

    into
    > real systems. Now coding without architecture we all know doesn't

    work--it's
    > what Steve McConnell calls "code and fix development".
    >
    > I'm wondering if there are some software architects out there who don't

    think
    > they need to code much if at all--that they can just hit it dead right

    from
    > the architectural design and the coding specialists can implement it

    themselves,
    > and the resulting systems turn out great.
    >
    > Matthew Cromer




  3. #3
    Craig Clearman Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .

    Hi Matthew,

    >Software architects that don't write code, coders who get all their marching
    >orders from the architects. Is this for real?


    Absolutely, it's real and it's growing.

    From your own experience, when implementing something new in your
    framework, are you able to come up with a detailed design (including
    class and interaction diagrams) well before your staff begins coding?
    Hopefully so.

    Ciao, Craig


  4. #4
    Matthew Cromer Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .


    Craig Clearman <chclear@nospam.please> wrote:
    >Hi Matthew,
    >
    >>Software architects that don't write code, coders who get all their marching
    >>orders from the architects. Is this for real?

    >
    >Absolutely, it's real and it's growing.
    >
    >From your own experience, when implementing something new in your
    >framework, are you able to come up with a detailed design (including
    >class and interaction diagrams) well before your staff begins coding?
    >Hopefully so.


    Well, we are a bit less formal than that. Its a very small team and only
    two of us actually do the framework coding. But we discuss stuff in detail
    long before we start writing code. We also create working draft architectural
    specifications on things like interfaces, general use of the framework, DB
    schema changes / additions etc. But then the two of us actually build the
    framework code. Most of the others here do more server / client development
    or DBA stuff.

    I'm curious to hear more about system architects who don't code at all.
    How in touch do they stay with the actual implementations of their architectures.
    What are the advantages and disadvantages of having them do no coding.

    Matthew Cromer

  5. #5
    Craig Clearman Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .

    Hi Matthew,

    >Well, we are a bit less formal than that. Its a very small team and only
    >two of us actually do the framework coding.


    There's a large part of the difference. I'm currently on the second
    largest team in my career. We have two project executives, four
    project managers, three architects (two system and one data), two
    subject matter experts, two business analysts, three change management
    consultants, five designers (seven, if you count the two system
    architects -- we're both back-filling open positions), seventeen
    programmers (VB, Perl, and C++), two project management assistants,
    one technical writer, and four quality assurance personnel. Plus, we
    already have a production support staff of five. In addition, our
    client has about a dozen different infrastructure support people
    interacting with us (from DBAs to network analysts to installation
    teams to trainers).

    When you deal with small development teams, you can short-circuit a
    lot of the process without adversely affecting your schedule. The
    larger the project, though, the more structure is required. Otherwise
    it will fall under its own weight.

    >I'm curious to hear more about system architects who don't code at all.
    >How in touch do they stay with the actual implementations of their architectures.
    > What are the advantages and disadvantages of having them do no coding.


    The main advantage is simple: your best architects are in constant
    demand. You tend to do two things with their time.

    First, you have them involved with selling services. Theirs are always
    one of the first faces that your client will see. You want them
    on-site during the sales phase, so that the client gets a high level
    of comfort that your team can handle the technical issues that come
    down the pike. They should then be used to come up with the overall
    architecture for the project, determining schedules, creating
    standards, publishing guidelines, and drafting the first designs that
    will be used as templates for the rest of the development.

    Second, you triage your existing projects to determine which ones
    really require their time. These are the points when you bring in your
    architect for a month to get the development back on track, or to kill
    the project.

    It's rare when you'll have the architect for the project sit through
    the entire implementation. That's more for your team lead or lead
    designer.

    Ciao, Craig


  6. #6
    John Perkins Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .


    I'll often design a subsystem in UML before writing a line of code. If I've
    got the class structure, the interfaces and how messages need to be passed
    to get a job done well thought out, then I often don't have to change a thing
    (or make really minor changes) when I actually go to implement.

    The enterprise system architect does this on a much larger scale, but it
    is the same drill. I can see the value of having architects only... as long
    as they really are experts.

    I imagine many architects do toy/test implementations to test their designs.

    I am like you, however, I like being both architect and coder. I always want
    a piece carved out that I can code myself.

    -jp

    "Matthew Cromer" <matthew@sdaconsulting.com> wrote:
    >
    >Software architects that don't write code, coders who get all their marching
    >orders from the architects. Is this for real? I interviewed recently for
    >a Microsoft Consulting position and was told by the folks I spoke with that
    >I would be doing a lot of architecture work but not much code at all. I'm
    >doing a lot of architecture now, and so does the rest of the team. We all
    >do a lot of coding as well. I don't see that in the current state of software
    >practice that it makes sense to be "just a software architect" who doesn't
    >code. The only way I know whether my designs will work is to code them

    into
    >real systems. Now coding without architecture we all know doesn't work--it's
    >what Steve McConnell calls "code and fix development".
    >
    >I'm wondering if there are some software architects out there who don't

    think
    >they need to code much if at all--that they can just hit it dead right from
    >the architectural design and the coding specialists can implement it themselves,
    >and the resulting systems turn out great.
    >
    >Matthew Cromer



  7. #7
    L.J. Johnson Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .

    Matthew,

    > Software architects that don't write code, coders who get all their

    marching
    > orders from the architects. Is this for real?


    Yep, it is, unfortunately. I would not trust an architect who didn't still
    do at least some coding...

    That said, working on architecture and working on code are diametrically
    opposed activities. At least in my case, one interferes with the other on
    about the 80% to 90% level. I can do architecture. I can do code. I just
    can't switch quickly back and forth between them. The differences in level
    of abstraction is too severe, and both the practical and theoretical "goals"
    of the two activities are too different. I can see spending 50% to 80% of my
    time on architecture, but I still absolutely insist on some coding.

    --
    L.J. Johnson, Slightly Tilted Software
    Microsoft MVP (Visual Basic)
    LJJohnson@SlightlyTiltedSoftware.com or LJJohnson@mvps.org
    <http://www.SlightlyTiltedSoftware.com>
    Ask The NT Pro at <http://www.inquiry.com>



  8. #8
    Craig Clearman Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .

    Hi L.J.,

    >> Software architects that don't write code, coders who get all their
    >>marching orders from the architects. Is this for real?

    >
    >Yep, it is, unfortunately. I would not trust an architect who didn't still
    >do at least some coding...


    Last things first:

    Would you trust a coder that got "all their marching orders from the
    architects?" Well, I trust them enough to push their code into a
    review and onto QA. That's exactly the same trust that I'd give a
    programmer who could also architect a system. So on that side, it
    doesn't really bother me.

    Where we differ is on the other side: architects who don't code. You
    picked up the following:

    >That said, working on architecture and working on code are diametrically
    >opposed activities.


    I don't disagree with you. But it makes me wonder why you think an
    architect should code. I fully believe that they can be two different
    roles, and do not have to overlap to be successful. That does not mean
    that I don't enjoy architecting a solution. Nor does it mean that I
    don't enjoy programming one.

    So I guess I'm asking you why you wouldn't trust an architect that
    doesn't program for the production system when you see them as two
    distinctly different roles.

    Ciao, Craig


  9. #9
    L.J. Johnson Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .

    Craig,

    > >That said, working on architecture and working on code are diametrically
    > >opposed activities.

    >
    > I don't disagree with you. But it makes me wonder why you think an
    > architect should code. I fully believe that they can be two different
    > roles, and do not have to overlap to be successful. That does not mean
    > that I don't enjoy architecting a solution. Nor does it mean that I
    > don't enjoy programming one.



    Maybe it's just a personal thing. But at some level, to architect an app,
    you must get language specific (implementation diagram). And while it's not
    an either/or issue, I would trust an architect who has had *recent*
    experience in the language(s) used than one who hadn't. Just as I would
    trust an Architect (building-trades type) who had occasional hands-on time
    than one who didn't (yes, those suckers are hard to find also). It doesn't
    need to be a *lot* of time coding, just enuf to keep up with some of the
    nuances of a particular language.

    Plus, and this *is* a purely personal issue, I don't want a job where I
    can't do both <g>.

    --
    L.J. Johnson, Slightly Tilted Software
    Microsoft MVP (Visual Basic)
    LJJohnson@SlightlyTiltedSoftware.com or LJJohnson@mvps.org
    <http://www.SlightlyTiltedSoftware.com>
    Ask The NT Pro at <http://www.inquiry.com>




  10. #10
    Craig Clearman Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .

    Hi L.J.,

    >Maybe it's just a personal thing. But at some level, to architect an app,
    >you must get language specific (implementation diagram). And while it's not
    >an either/or issue, I would trust an architect who has had *recent*
    >experience in the language(s) used than one who hadn't.


    I think we're both saying the same things here. An architect needs to
    promoted up from a designer/programmer. That experience should
    directly affect his architectures. As time moves on, the experience he
    has cultivated drops, and he has to renew his skills with newer
    technologies. So he drops back to being a designer or programmer for
    some time. If he proves himself again, he gets promoted again to
    architecture. It's a cycle. You never have architects that have been
    running as architects for long periods of time. They either move over
    to management, or they move back to design/programming.

    Ciao, Craig


  11. #11
    L.J. Johnson Guest

    Re: Software architects that don't write code . . .

    Craig,

    > I think we're both saying the same things here. An architect needs to
    > promoted up from a designer/programmer. That experience should
    > directly affect his architectures. As time moves on, the experience he
    > has cultivated drops, and he has to renew his skills with newer
    > technologies. So he drops back to being a designer or programmer for
    > some time. If he proves himself again, he gets promoted again to
    > architecture. It's a cycle. You never have architects that have been
    > running as architects for long periods of time. They either move over
    > to management, or they move back to design/programming.


    Now *that* I can agree with... With the exception that a person can do both,
    moving freely between them without being "promoted" or "de-promoted".
    Assuming that (1) they are capable of both and (2) that their time is
    segmented so that daily gross generalization-level changes aren't required.

    --
    L.J. Johnson, Slightly Tilted Software
    Microsoft MVP (Visual Basic)
    LJJohnson@SlightlyTiltedSoftware.com or LJJohnson@mvps.org
    <http://www.SlightlyTiltedSoftware.com>
    Ask The NT Pro at <http://www.inquiry.com>




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