There’s an adage in software engineering, Conway’s Law, which carries significant implications for the way we structure our organisations and design our software.
Conway’s Law states that any organisation that designs a system will invariably produce a design that mirrors the organisation’s communication structure. To put it in simple terms, the way we interact and communicate within our organisations directly shapes the systems we create.
Its relevance in product development
As a seasoned professional in software engineering and product development, I find Conway’s Law to be particularly relevant. In many companies, we find distinct departments such as databases, architecture, user interfaces, and more. The resulting underlying architecture tends to mimic these divisions or ‘silos’, reflecting their existence within the organisation.
This siloed design, however, poses a significant challenge. The software we create should ideally function as a cohesive, integrated whole. But with distinct elements like database design and business logic existing in separate silos, we encounter numerous interdependencies.
Interdependencies are problematic for several reasons:
- They amplify the need for communication and synchronisation between different departments.
- They consume considerable time, which could be better used in productive activities.
- They are highly susceptible to errors.
- They give rise to other associated issues that can hamper the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the system.
The importance of organisational structure
Given the above, how should we structure our organisations to optimise the process? This is a field I have spent significant time researching, and my findings challenge conventional wisdom and the classical thinking we often see. But that is a post for another day!
For today, remember that Conway’s Law highlights how our organisational structures dictate the systems we design. So go ahead and foster a culture that promotes effective communication, collaboration and the breaking down of silos within your organisations.
About Effective Agile
Ralph Jocham is a Change Agent in Scrum // Agile // Coaching // Evidence Based Management and also a Professional Scrum Trainer based in Europe.
As one of the first Professional Scrum Trainers in the world, Ralph has worked directly with cocreator of #scrum, Ken Schwaber, and has played an integral part in the course development of the #PSPO (Professional Scrum Product Owner) as well as the delivery of all #scrum.org certified courses.
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