As you may have seen on Twitter, I've been mulling over an idea for a new book, which I'm pleased to say is going to happen. It's currently titled "The Art of Visualising Software Architecture" and, as the title suggests, it will focus on the visual communication of software architecture through diagrams.
The core of the book is my C4 software architecture model and although this is covered in my existing Software Architecture for Developers book, I want to create a single resource related to this topic because I still see effective communication of software architecture as a huge gap across the software development industry. You'll notice that the title of this book includes the word "art". I've seen a number of debates over the years about whether software development is a craft or an engineering discipline. Although I think it *should* be an engineering discipline, I believe we're a number of years away from this being a reality. So while this book won't present a formalised, standardised method to communicate software architecture, it will provide a collection of ideas and techniques that thousands of people across the world have found useful.
I also want to include a number of other topics and answers to frequently asked questions that I get during my software architecture sketching workshops, including some of the blog posts I've written recently such as Help, my diagram doesn't fit on one page! and Diff'ing software architecture diagrams again, for example. I'm also going to include more discussion about notation, the various uses for diagrams, the value of creating a model and tooling. Structurizr will be in there too.
Thanks very much for all of the support so far on this; the tweets/e-mails I've had are telling me that this is the right decision. Since it's not going to be a long book and initial drafts may include some text copied verbatim from my "Software Architecture for Developers book", I'm going to make this available via Leanpub using their variable pricing model ... with a starting price of free, certainly for a while anyway. It's a work in progress, but please feel free to grab a copy from Leanpub if you're interested. Thanks very much!
This definitely goes into the category of a frequently asked question because it crops up time and time again, both during and after my software architecture sketching workshop.
I'm following your C4 approach but my software system is much bigger than the example you use in your workshop. How do you deal with the complexity of these larger systems? And what happens when my diagram doesn't fit on one page?
Even with a relatively small software system, it's tempting to try and include the entire story on a single diagram. For example, if you have a web application, it seems logical to create a single component diagram that shows all of the components that make up that web application. Unless your software system really is that small, you're likely to run out of room on the diagram canvas or find it difficult to discover a layout that isn't cluttered by a myriad of overlapping lines. Using a larger diagram canvas can sometimes help, but large diagrams are usually hard to interpret and comprehend because the cognitive load is too high. And if nobody understands the diagram, nobody is going to look at it.
Instead, don't be afraid to split that single complex diagram into a larger number of simpler diagrams, each with a specific focus around a business area, functional area, functional grouping, bounded context, use case, user interaction, feature set, etc. You can see an example of this in One view or many?, where I create one component diagram per web MVC controller rather than having a single diagram showing all components. You can see this in action in the software architecture diagrams for techtribes.je that are hosted on Structurizr. The key is to ensure that each of the separate diagrams tells a different part of the same overall story, at the same level of abstraction.
While at the Devoxx UK conference recently, I was interviewed by Lucy Carey from Voxxed about software architecture, diagrams, monoliths, microservices, design thinking and modularity. You can watch this short interview (~5 minutes) at Step Away from the Code! ... enjoy!
While at the YOW! conference in Australia during December 2014, I was interviewed by Craig Smith and Tony Ponton for The Agile Revolution podcast. It's a short episode (28 minutes) but we certainly packed a lot in, with the discussion covering software architecture, my C4 model, technical leadership, agility, lightweight documentation and even a little bit about enterprise architecture.
Thanks to Craig and Tony for taking the time to do this and I hope you enjoy The Agile Revolution - Episode 91: Coding The Architecture with Simon Brown.
A printed copy of Talking with Tech Leads, by Patrick Kua (a Tech Lead at Thoughtworks), arrived in the post this morning. We often discuss the technical side of software development and rarely the “softer” side. This book is a collection of short interviews with people new to or in technical leadership roles. They share their stories, tips and experiences of making that leap from developer to tech lead. To clarify, by "tech lead", Patrick is referring to somebody in a technical leadership role who still writes code. This is synonymous with what I call the software architecture role, with an expectation that part of the role includes coding.
I actually recommend this book during my software architecture workshops as there are some fascinating “eureka” moments presented in the book, especially related to leadership and dealing with people. One of the messages you'll see repeated again and again is that, as software developers, nobody really prepares you for how to deal with people when you make the jump into your first tech lead role. Looking back at my own career and of people I worked with at the time, I'd say the same was true. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I wish I had a book like this earlier in my career.
I'd certainly recommend taking a look if you're interested in the softer side of the technical leadership/software architecture role. The book is available on Leanpub and as a printed book via Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Disclaimer: I'm interviewed in the book, as is Robert Annett and a bunch of other people you may recognise ... I receive no royalties for recommending it though. :-)
I'm delighted to say that I'll be presenting two conference keynotes during October, both about software architecture and a little bit about microservices.
The first is titled Modular Monoliths at the Software Architect 2015 conference taking place in London. Sander Hoogendoorn is delivering the other keynote about microservices, and I hope to bring some balance to the discussion by asking this question: "if you can’t build a well-structured monolith, what makes you think microservices is the answer?". I'll also be running a new workshop at the event called Extracting software architecture from code, but more on that later. The Software Architect conference is certainly evolving from year to year, and it's fantastic to see a wide range of topics related to software architecture, design and development.
The week after, I'll be presenting another keynote titled Software architecture as code at a new conference in Munich called the The Architecture Gathering. It's a predominantly German language event and the content (from what I understand, and I don't speak German!) looks pretty interesting, as does the list of speakers.
I'm very much looking forward to both, especially as I think we've reached a turning point in our industry where people are starting to think about and appreciate the role that software architecture plays. See you there!
If you like the look and feel of the C4 software architecture diagrams in my Software Architecture for Developers book (see examples here), Dennis Laumen has created an OmniGraffle stencil that will save you some time. Just download the stencil, install and it will appear in your stencil library.
The C4 stencil is available from Omni Group's Stenciltown. Thanks Dennis!
This is a quick update on my upcoming trip to Australia ... in conjunction with the lovely folks behind the YOW! conference, we've scheduled two public software architecture sketching workshops as follows.
This workshop addresses one of the major problems I've evidenced during my career in software development; namely that people find it really hard to describe, communicate and visualise the design of their software. Sure, we have UML, but very few people use it and instead resort to an ad hoc "boxes and lines" notation. This is fine, but the resulting diagrams (as illustrated below) need to make sense and they rarely do in my experience.
My workshop explores this problem from a number of different perspectives, not least by giving you an opportunity to practice these skills yourself. My Voxxed article titled Simple Sketches for Diagramming Your Software Architecture provides an introduction to this topic and the C4 model that I use. I've been running this workshop in various formats for nearly 10 years now and the techniques we'll cover have proven invaluable for software development teams around the world in the following situations:
"Really surprising training! I expected some typical spoken training about someones revolutionary method and I found a hands-on training that used the "do-yourself-and-fail" approach to learn the lesson, and taught us a really valuable, reasonable and simple method as an approach to start the architecture of a system. Highly recommended!" (an attendee from the software architecture sketching workshop at GOTO Amsterdam 2014)
In Diff'ing software architecture diagrams, I showed that creating a software architecture model with a textual format provides you with the ability to version control and diff different versions of the model. As a follow-up, somebody asked me whether Structurizr provides a way to recreate what Robert Annett originally posted in Diagrams for System Evolution. In other words, can the colours of the lines be changed? As you can see from the images below, the answer is yes.
To do this, you simply add some tags to the relationships and add the appropriate styles to the view configuration. structurizr.com will even auto-generate a key for you.
And yes, you can do the same with elements too. As this illustrates, the choice of approach is yours.