2011/07/13

In Quest for Simplicity

Last week I finished to read an ingenious book about enterprise architectures and simplicity challenges by Roger Sessions (“Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises”, Microsoft Press, 2008). I should write a short review of it just to keep the main ideas stored at one place (hopefully I will find time for this) but there is one short chapter that I don’t want to let it wait… “A Philosophy of Simplicity”.

Here the core sentences that in my opinion don’t need any additional explanation. I can only say, just open your eyes and especially your architecture mind, rethink all you do and act:
- “In reality it is not systems that are getting more complex but system requirements that are getting more complex”
- “The job of the enterprise architect is to design simple systems that do complex things”
- “The paradox about complexity is that it is simple to make systems complex; it is complex to make systems simple”
- “Architectures naturally seek the maximum possible level of complexity all on their own”
- “The observation that architectures are naturally attracted to complexity is actually predicted by physics, in particular, the law of entropy”
- “The law of entropy tells us that the battle for simplicity is never over. It requires a constant influx of energy to keep enterprise systems simple”
- “The enterprise architect should have a passion for simplicity”

I was really I little bit “shocked” I had read this (positive of course). It is more or less an extract of all my findings and conclusions I have collected during my last project years in area of enterprise and solution architectures. Especially the topic of entropy (and the whole area of thermodynamics behind it) has an immense influence on the way we, humans act, thus do architecture, conduct project management etc. I have thought about involving of entropy into process of creating and reviewing architectures for many years already. Assuming our life is also some kind of a project (an individual, time-boxed goal) we are confronted with the laws of entropy every minute of our existence. If you accept this, it is then easier to understand others (humans and systems) and how to stay compliant to “the philosophy of simplicity”.

An interesting example of this never-ending confrontation with the growing entropy I was able to observe during my latest presentation of my current project. The whole project was setup based on “my laws of simplicity” that are same as Roger Sessions, described in his book and they are also based on well known lean principles (especially “waste elimination”). I’m really proud of my system that can do complex things but the core idea and the way of implementing it was simple. So during my presentation the words “simple, simplicity” have been shown and underlined more than once. Paradoxically this “flood of simplicity” has caused a lot of confusion. My colleagues have almost asked “how can you sell it as expensive, when it is simple?”, “simple means trivial?”, “why did you do that, instead of taking something ready, which is more complex, means has more value?” and so on…

As you can see, it is a never-ending task for us “in quest for simplicity helping others in quest of simplicity”. That’s our destiny, cool.