All people have their own “filters” that they apply unconciously in interactions with other people. This means that two people sharing the same experience can have different opinions on what actually happened. In order to better understand each other we need to realize these differences in perception.
As architects we also apply filters to our surrounding reality, but we should do this in a deliberate way as good as we can.
This last Friday I held a presentation for solution architects and developers. My goal was to describe my work in terms of how I work with abstractions and what types of considerations that are important in my work. The reason why I wanted to do this was that I want the solution architects and developers to understand that they need to help me see what details in their work that are most important. The point I tried to make is that abstractions (pictures, metaphors, models and other descriptions) always mean to simplify and generalize complex things to make them more understandable. The major risk when doing this is that the descriptions gets too much distorted and that the important little things get “lost in translation”. This reasoning also applies to the work we do to create different descriptions for different kinds of people. Upper management working with the overall picture of the organization need one set of descriptions and for people with focus on specifics these would be too abstract and over-simplified.
I used an application map, familiar to some of the developers in the audience, to illustrate a few of my points:
In this illustration the applications for this area have been simplified to services and components. Thousands of programming hours in one picture, clearly simplified. I have used this picture in discussions with users and stakeholders to show that the complexity of this software is much more than the application client they use. The client is in only one of the small boxes in this picture, at the top left. So this very much simplified picture have been used to illustrate complexity
So, is this picture distorted? Yes, it is. There is much variance in complexity and size between the components, but here they all have the same size. That information is not important for most people, but so important for other people that they would think that the entire picture is flawed.
As architects we need to be good at knowing these differences.