Conway’s Plea: Humanize Software Development

See how Conway's law applies to Microservices development

One of the reasons I am enjoying working in the field of microservices is the universal acknowledgment that everything has to be considered in order to be successful. It’s not just about putting in one piece of technology and reaping rewards; those who are succeeding with Microservices are evaluating their organizations, their skills and their methodologies in addition to their architectures and infrastructures. I hope this continues.

One of the most widely discussed organizational topics in relation to Microservices is Conway’s Law. It states:

Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure.

This statement serves as a reminder to those adopting Microservices that they need to structure their teams in alignment with the overall systems of services they are hoping to build. The fact that Conway proposed this thesis almost a half century ago indicates that it contains a powerful truth.

While Conway’s Law is receiving this current attention, Mel Conway himself is still plugged into the world of software development. He continues to pursue his career-long goal of simplifying the software-building process and had a recent epiphany detailed in a five-page open letter titled “Humanize the Craft of Building Interactive Computer Applications”.

This thought-provoking paper focuses on the uniquely human trait of utilizing an immeasurably tight feedback loop between the hands, eyes and brain during the creative process. He then contrasts construction through “purposeful manipulation” (an exclusive, learned approach) with creativity through an “unconscious dance” (a more inclusive, intuitive approach) and argues that software development must become an unconscious dance in order to reach the masses.

In my recent TechCrunch article, “Creating a SEA Change in the Digital Age”, I made a plea to the software industry to make software development more accessible. To do this, it will take innovative proposals like this one from Mel Conway. I encourage you to read his paper, think about it and let it stimulate your own ideas on how to #HumanizeTheCraft.

The Author

Matt McLarty

Team Lead

Matt McLarty is an experienced software architect who leads the API Academy at CA Technologies. He helps organizations with their strategy and architecture for APIs, microservices and enterprise integration. Matt recently co-authored the book Microservice Architecture for O’Reilly, with his API Academy colleagues.

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