Best Practices: Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises

untitledGreetings! This post describes another of our recent Best Practices books for developers: Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises, by Roger Sessions. (The book’s ISBN is 9780735625784, and its length is a simple 208 pages.)

Roger’s website is here, and his blog is here. Roger is the CTO of ObjectWatch. He has written seven books in addition to Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises and many articles. He is a past founding member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Software Architects, Editor-in-Chief of Perspectives of the International Association of Software Architects, and a Microsoft-recognized MVP in Enterprise Architecture. He has given talks in more than 30 countries, 70 cities, and 100 conferences on the topic of Enterprise Architecture.

Here’s a little bit about the book and after that we share a great recent review of the book by Igor Lobanov:

Dismantle the overwhelming complexity in your IT projects with strategies and real-world examples from a leading expert on enterprise architecture. This guide describes best practices for creating an efficient IT organization that consistently delivers on time, on budget, and in line with business needs.

IT systems have become too complex and too expensive. Complexity can create delays, cost overruns, and outcomes that do not meet business requirements. The resulting losses can impact your entire company. This guide demonstrates that, contrary to popular belief, complex problems demand simple solutions. The author believes that 50 percent of the complexity of a typical IT project can and should be eliminated and he shows you how to do it.

You’ll learn a model for understanding complexity, the three tenets of complexity control, and how to apply specific techniques such as checking architectures for validity. Find out how the author’s methodology could have saved a real-world IT project that went off track, and ways to implement his solutions in a variety of situations.

Key Book Benefits:

  • Presents a model for understanding IT and enterprise complexity
  • Provides practical solutions for controlling complexity, and shows how they can be applied in a variety of situations
  • Features a methodology for checking architectures for validity
  • Explains how to apply simplification algorithms to software systems
  • Includes a real-world case study that demonstrates how the author’s solutions could have saved an actual IT project that went wrong

And here is Igor’s review (Amazon permalink):

It is quite common these days to hear someone saying that enterprise architecture has failed to provide expected value. Some people declare that EA is dead. Not that anyone agrees with that, but you can’t deny that certain degree of disillusionment does take place. Practitioners are increasingly disappointed with apparent lack of focus of `classic’ all-your-system-are-belong-to-us EA frameworks (read TOGAF) and desperately trying to find a leaner, more value-driven way of doing things.

This book is essentially about post-framework EA. It isn’t new, in fact it was published 3 years ago, but, like a good wine that gets better with age, the book becomes more and more relevant with each passing year. Roger Session courageously redefines what good enterprise architecture is about. In his view, there’s a single fundamental root of every notorious issue in modern enterprise IT such as business misalignment, untimely and unreliable information, soaring costs. The root is complexity that poisons everything if not properly controlled. The goal of this book is to present a proper set of thinking tools that enable an architect to understand, measure, plan and contain the overwhelming complexity of an enterprise.

First few chapters are dedicated a theoretic introduction to the subject of complexity. Author draws from combinatorics and set theory to illustrate several techniques to battle complexity: partitioning, simplification, and iteration. The less math-savvy you are as a reader, the more challenging the reading would be, but at the same time the more you get from the book. Anyway it’s not a rocket science, so everyone could make sense of it.

The rest of the book is mostly dedicated to author’s own lightweight method on controlling the complexity of enterprise architectures which is called Simple Iterative Partitions (SIP). From its point of view an enterprise is seen as a hierarchical composition of autonomous business capabilities (ABCs) that partition both modules of business and software systems that support them. A nice feature of SIP is that it draws a clear line between enterprise and solutions architecture and doesn’t attempt to get into the domain of latter, but rather helps to define boundaries of systems that need to be developed or acquired.

In addition to that there’s an entertaining case study of complexity (mis-)management given on an example of notorious multi-billion atrocity of NPfIT programme that is run by British National Healthcare System since early 2000s. A superficial application of SIP demonstrates that certain programme-level decisions made in the past were fundamentally wrong from the complexity control perspective, and a better way of achieving the goal is elicited. Of course devil is in the detail so I wouldn’t take the conclusions deadly seriously; however, for a sake of method demonstration it is really valuable perspective.

I found the book to be easy to read. In fact it is quite short, less than 200 pages of actual content that is concisely summarized in the last chapter for further reference. It could be even shorter if author took out lengthy introduction on the subject of EA in the first chapter. It is completely useless to most readers because it presents yet another overview of Zachman Framework and TOGAF that is too short to be practically useful on its own and doesn’t add any value as it is not referenced in the book later.

In summary, I would suggest reading this book to anyone practising EA as it provides a completely unorthodox perspective, which is always good since it feeds your critical thinking. On the other hand if your professional interests are closer to tin, e.g. technical architecture, you may find this book of less interest as it lacks any specifics or technologies. It isn’t a book that you’ll keep at your desk, but it is definitely a smart and enjoyable reading that changes the way you look at everyday things.

Igor’s review first appeared on his blog. Thanks for the thoughtful review, Igor. We’re glad you enjoyed the book.

For news about other books in our two Best Practices series, one for developers and another for IT professionals, use our Best Practices tag.

Comments (1)

  1. ciupaz says:

    A updated version of this book (or another title on similar concepts) is in mind?