Simon Brown’s book, Software Architecture for Developers has been on my reading list for some time. I am aware of Brown’s talks that he gives at conferences, and his very good workshop on describing how to draw more effective diagrams as a communication mechanism for developers to other groups, but I wasn’t quite sure what his book was going to cover.
This weekend, whilst travelling, I had a bit of airport time to do some reading to plough through his book.
What I enjoyed about the book
Architecture is a touchy subject, and Brown doesn’t have any problems raising this as a contentious topic, particularly in the agile community where it doesn’t have an explicit practice. Some XP books explain the role, but mantras like “Big Design Up Front” and “Last Responsible Moment” are often (wrongly) interpreted as “do no architecture.” What I liked about Brown’s approach is his recognition of the Goldilocks approach – not too little and not too much where he provides both points of view and some concrete practices.
Brown covers important topics like quality attributes (Cross Functional Requirements), what the role of an Architect is (and that it is just a role, not necessarily a person). I am biased in the opinion but I enjoyed Brown’s perspective about whether or not architects should code, and it aligns well with my own point of view that for a Tech Lead (or Architect) to make effective decisions, they need to have empathy and understand (live, breath and sometime burn for) the decisions they make.
I appreciated the way that Brown puts “Constraints” and “Principles” as key factors that aren’t necessarily represented in the codebase and are unlikely to be easily discoverable for new people. Both are things that I have done when leading software teams and are things I would repeat because I find it helps people navigate and contribute to the codebase.
What I found slightly strange about the book
I believe the book is really strong but there were a few sections that seemed slightly out of place, or not yet completely finished. One was around the “Sharepoint projects needs architecture too”, which I don’t necessarily disagree with but could easily be extended to “Any software product extended to build an application needs architecture too” (cue s/Sharepoint/CMS/g or other examples).
Software Architecture for Developers is a very accessible, relevant and useful book that I do not have any problems recommending for people looking at how to effectively implement Software Architecture in today’s environment.