04 May 2015
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The Importance of Scalability cannot be overlooked in any Level of Design, this an Architect knows.

The following is a letter I wrote to higher management at a company I worked for on the importance in understanding Scalability and it’s impact found throughout all levels of an organization. In Virtual Corporations, the known profession’s of humanity and all the levels within it, along with Life Itself; these principles I begin to touch upon and point out apply equally in their respective parts. This small article servers as an introduction to the knowledge base one must aspire to if you are to grasp the Level of Design that Humanity follows, never mind something as small as one simple Corporation Entity. In this opening letter, I’ll discuss scalability as it pertains to Corporations and Business. In later writings, I’ll reference how Life itself, our AI’s organizational structures, follow similar paths and how the crucial role of Life’s Architect has been absent from it for some time.

Dear Top Level Management of Corporation X,

I feel it import to outline a very serious problem we have with the organizational structure currently in place. To get there, to understand why this is a serious problem, I’ve started off with a small outline detailing a bit of Martin and Michael’s bios; authors from the two notable books on the Art of Scalability in business and technology. Their history, experience and understanding of how to build and maintain large scalable business and technology companies speak for themselves. They are experts in the field. It is from their best practices and experience that I learn to increase my own (as well as from the many others out there). One of the main reasons I am pointing out these two authors for you (along with their books) is because of the unique approach they take in identifying how to make award winning, industry level products that can scale to infinity and beyond. To achieve this near infinite growth, the Principles of Scalability must be applied to both the Business model and the Technology division.

Martin Abbott

  1. Is an executive with experience running technology and business organizations within Fortune 500 and startup companies
  2. Is a founding partner of AFK partners, a consulting firm focusing on meeting the technical and business hyper growth needs of todays fast-paced companies
  3. Former COO of Quigo, an advertising technology startup acquired by AOL in 2007
  4. Prior to Quigo, spent nearly 6 years at eBay as a SVP of Technology and CTO and member of the CEO’s executive staff
  5. Prior to eBay, held domestic and international engineering, management and executive positions at Gateway and Motorola
  6. Serves on the boards of Directors for OnForce, LodgeNet Interactive (NASD:LNET) and Bullhorn
  7. Sits on a number of advisory boards for universities and public and private companies
  8. BS in computer science from the US Military Academy, a MS in computer engineering from UoF and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Executive education program
  9. Pursuing a Doctorate of Management with a focus in antecedents and effects of conflict within executive teams of startups

Michael Fisher

  1. veteran software and technology executive with experience in both Fortune 500 and startup companies
  2. Is a founding partner of AKF Paterers
  3. 2 Years CTO of Quigo
  4. Served as VP of engineering and architecture for PayPal Inc, an eBay company
  5. Seven years at General Electric helping develop the companies technology strategy and processes
  6. PH.D. in Information Systems from Kennedy-Western University
  7. MBA from Case Western Reserve University
  8. BS in computer science
  9. Six years as captain and pilot in the US Army

In the book, the Art of Scalability, the authors approach both the Organization (company) itself and the products they build as equals when it comes to architecting large scalable solutions. For one to scale, the other must also scale or there will eventually be a melt down. We only need to travel back as far as 1999, when eBay experienced a 20-plus hour crisis resulting in massive losses in the market place. Up till that point, the problems weren’t overly known and the exact cause of the outages were not from any one particular big thing. It was a cluster of many small things throughout the organization that went unattended that lead to the crash. The fallout from this moment in time for the company resulted in the restructuring of both it’s business model and organization. Additional teams were brought in to ensure that going forward the engineering organization, the engineering process and the technology produced could scale to the demand placed on them. Engineering teams where augmented with members who had experience and knowledge in high availability and scalable designs and architecture. “Most importantly, the company created a culture of scalability.”.

If the people are important to the saleability of a system, the organizational structure should be just as important. Putting the right organizational structure in place isn’t a science, it’s more of an art form (this will become a key point in later articles when we start to analyze our global society in general and how the current State in our System of Design is failing us altogether).

In our current form, there’s an important role missing across the organization: The Architects. The organization as it stands places too many responsibilities on the role of ‘Manager’ (or worst, the agility in group mentality - developers -). The managers are playing too many roles and this is having negative impacts on vision, design, cohesion and communication across all our products. Architects are leaders in design, vision and understanding of what does not exist. Their breath of knowledge expands multiple disciplines and their form is abstract enough to never dive too deep into any one Rabbit Hole of Implementation. They take activities pushed from management, mark a destination and then set a number of waypoints towards that end; management gets you to that destination.

There have been a number of reoccurring themes over the years in many companies in the area of requirements gathering, design and the lack of a consistent vision using the right technology. Those points are some of what a team of specialized Architects solve. I have a lot of first hand experience at the companies in an ‘Architect’ role given my history as a Consultant. One of the main problems with some organizational setups is that the number of managers, from all the different areas of the business, like to play General when it comes to giving requirements, design and direction. On many occasions, time spent in investigating technologies driven by a set of requirements is almost invalidated due to fire volleyed from the bow of another groups ship, in the form of change or direction. When questions are asked as to what they are trying to solve, why they are doing it in a particular way, best practices around scalability principles and so on…cannot be answered…or one particular dangerous answer is given: “that’s the way we want to do it”. This alone is a failure in an organizational structure that is missing a layer of specialized individuals who can answer all these questions, it’s one of the many tasks assigned to the role of ‘Architects’.

Today (and for a long while now) the Managers are playing this role and it’s a role that should be divided because the responsibilities and the tasks are very different. The effect each has on the scalability of the company differs in many ways; A key note in the book on this issue illustrates the need for understanding the differences between Management (Managers) and Leadership (Architects): Simply put: “Leadership serves to inspire people to greater accomplishments and management exists to motivate them to the objective.”. Management can be thought of as “pushing” activities while leadership is “pulling” them. If a person is more operationally focused, they would be more of a “manager” type. If they are more “visionary”, they’d be more of a “leader”. While there is no single reason a person can’t have both qualities, it’s the duties placed on them in an Organization that’ll tax their abilities to perform to the best they can.

In all the roles that make up an organizations structure, the one of an architect “is responsible for the availability, scalability and technical success of the product, platform, or system design“. This role is very much a leadership position as they set those “waypoints” in design that software engineers will follow and implement. Architects, while governed by, work independently of Managers, pulling their activities and ensuring a consistent design and path of the products. They gather requirements from all sources of expertise, identify issues and set into place proper resolution paths for critical points such as when requirements from different parts of the organization conflict. They are very close to the technology in the industry. They understand the products in the business, work in unison as a group to ensure common components and services all meet particular goals and principles that ultimately ensure near infinite scalability in a companies product(s). There is a much more exhaustive list than this, but the points serve as a good base.

There are many points in the ’50 Principles of Scalability’, all should be addressed and have answers for. Decisions are being made right now, in isolation or conflict or ignorance, in a majority of organizations, all without the proper roles and leadership to guide them. The role of ‘The Architect’ is essential for everything it entails. It is my belief and for some of the reasons I outlined here by Martin and Micheal, that we need a layer of Architects to be brought back into all organizations, not just the few. The role and purpose they play in everything that happens is perhaps the most vital conscious part of a Corporation’s (organization, profession, life) makeup, without them, everything breaks apart. Still not convinced? I submit to you this simple task then: gather together a master piece, a symphony, with all the star musicians and then play without a Conductor. The sounds will all be there, but what a noisy, messy time it’ll be. The sounds of music, life, for all, run much better when Conductors, visionaries with a calling, are at the helm.

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