Sunday, April 1, 2012

Juval Löwy's ( Architecture Clinic

Recently I had the privilege of attending the IDesign Architecture Clinic in Sydney. It was a week long intensive mix of the architecture theory, the responsibilities of an architect, and practical coaching.  IDesign runs two similar courses in the software architecture stream: The Architect's Master-Class and the Architecture Clinic. The idea behind the Clinic is to keep the attendee numbers relatively small and have the opportunity to learn from a true master architect.  In Sydney my group was lucky to have Juval himself run the course.

Day one was full on.  Juval gave us a light speed overview of some of the critical material from the Architect's Master-class. The rest of the week was then practical hands-on experience using IDesign's "The Method". Days two, three and four followed the pattern of choose one of the attendee's systems and use The Method to draw up a proposed new architecture. Then Juval and the group will critique. Day five was all about project design, planning, and tracking.

The amount of knowledge and experience imparted during this course was simply incredible.  No other speaker I have ever listened to has packed this amount of information into five days.  There isn't more than a few handfuls of other people in the software industry that have the same level of industry insight and where it is heading in the next 10-20 years. During conversations there were more than a few statements that gave us a glimpse of where the industry is heading.  As a bonus Juval also kindly donated two of his evenings and run us through some other topics in depth, from the Architect's Master-class.

Anyone who has listened to Juval speak will know he is both highly intellectual and controversial. He often makes statements that send murmurs through an audience.  This course was no exception.  Some examples (not direct quotes):

  • Every class as a WCF service.
  • The Method doesn't fit well with Agile.
  • The Architect is the responsible party not the project manager.
  • Most project managers actively kill their projects.
  • Self managing teams don't work.
For most questions the general answer was "there is no time, you need to attend the Architect's Master-class".  Other vague answers sounded as though he was hinting at some future technology now under development but is bound by NDA's. There were some answers, but with anything new and revolutionary every question reveals 3 more.

My personal opinion on this course was that it was worth while (it is definitely not a cheap course), but I would have liked to have completed the Architect's Master-class first.  I also believe that there was too much after-the-fact review based criticism and not enough coaching.  For days two, three, and four we were left to decompose the system and draw up our own plan for the whole day, whereas I would have preferred to have been walked through it from start to completion on day two before the practical on days three and four. Again just my personal opinion, and like I said still very worth while.

So, did I rush back to the office and evangelise all my co-workers and stakeholders? 
Because I cannot sell a new idea to my stakeholders without having prepared answers to the questions I know they will ask. Questions like: "We are a Scrum-Software-House, this doesn't fit with Scrum. You are not permitted to undertake projects in this way". Or "We hired you as an Architect not a project manager, you are operating outside your responsibilities". Or "Some of what you are prescribing infringes on senior developers responsibilities of technical design, architects should not be prescribing technical design".  And my favourite: "We don't have enough architects to operate this way and no-one wants to be an architect". The answers to these questions are not the kind you can Google and Juval simply recommends go to the Architect's Master-class.  So I'm filing this learning under "Interesting future insights that can't be used right now".

Can I justify going to the next Architect's Master-class?  
Probably not for a while.  Due to corporate politics its unlikely I can sell another course in the next 12 months just for me given the overall cost of fees, flights and accommodation (planned courses are only in the States). Also given that this one has not set my architecture team on fire with new levels of efficiency.

There's no easy solutions, just broad wholesale change.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ben,
    thanks for posting the review. I went to the Architect's master class and it was the best training money spent period. The experience and depth of insight Juval offers is staggering. It is not your usual training though and people looking for confirmation of the mainstream will be disappointed (and there is a section on groupthink in software project, there is in fact everything). Missing the AC however is my biggest regret this year. AMC is a natural prerequisite to it, and I would have loved to practice "the Method" even "only" with other architects, which I believe is a fairly touted benefit of the setup. I recommend AMC wholehartedly and my only concern after taking it is where to go next - perhaps Shy Cohen's Cloud Architect's Master Class?
    Pavel Dvorak, Melbourne