5 February 2010

Is an archtiecture description always necessary?

I wrote in an earlier post about the importance of being able to write in a concise manner, based on the assumption that key issue for an architecture description is to convey an common understanding of the architecture (more on the validity of that assumption later in the blog).

What would happen if that line of thought is taken to it's extreme, i.e. nothing is written down about the architecture? How would one reach a degree of understanding among the team members? And especially a common understanding? Does it even need to be common?

Answering these questions could easily expand to an entire literature review of organisational learning and I'll try to avoid that. But an architecture description is a way to convert the tacit or internal knowledge (of the architects?) to explicit knowledge which in turn other stakeholders can internalise again. The question is of this transfer of knowledge can be spread through the organisation by other means?
I certainly think so, the same way I learned about electrical system in vehicles "on the job" rather than learning from books, but this requires working side by side on a recurring (daily?) basis. Feasible if the team is co-located in the same room, but it does not really scale if the desks are to far apart. One architect and 15 other developers is not a problem. One architect and 200 other developers is a problem.
I have a gut feel that this is related to how well agile practices scale to big projects...

After reading this post I realised I made an assumption that the architect is the main person having the knowledge about the architecture. Of course this must not always be the case. One alternative is the committe architectures I wrote about earlier, but there of course must exist other alternatives...

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