City Planning

Brenda Michelson of Elemental Links just posted a great excerpt of an unpublished paper from Annie Shum of BEA that discusses the city planner analogy to SOA.

Interestingly, my recent post on facilitating the service lifecycle spawned an email conversation on this topic. The gist of the conversation was that many of the tools out there in the SOA space are targeting the Building Inspector, rather than the City Planner or the Developer/Landlord (developer in the city planning sense, not in the software development sense).

Annie’s paper points out that:

City planning is not concerned with the design and construction of individual buildings. Rather, it is concerned with the multi-aspect relationship of individual buildings to one another… city planning is not about building architecture; it’s about meta-architecture for designing communities of buildings by focusing on common infrastructure, governance and cohesion.

This is a great statement, and very useful when trying to explain the role of an enterprise architect. James McGovern recently brought up the need for architects to work downward to the developers. I think the city planning analogy can be a useful tool in helping to create an understanding of the roles involved. Interestingly, recent events in my town demonstrate how well this analogy works, even in providing some guidance to how collaboration should occur. The town I live in is growing. Years ago, it would have been considered a rural farming community. Now, with the normal suburban sprawl, its close proximity to downtown St. Louis is making it more suburban and less rural. The biggest event associated with this growth is about to happen: a major tract of farmland is going to be turned into a major shopping and industrial complex. The opinions page in our local paper has become very active on the subject. The individuals expressing their opinions are akin to the individual developer in the enterprise. The city council is akin to the enterprise architecture team. I would not want to leave this effort in the hands of the individuals who are expressing their opinions. They simply don’t have the right perspective to make these types of decisions. The city council has been working on this for at least 5 years, studying the implications of tax incentives, infrastructure development, impact on local businesses, etc. The roles are clear. What I do believe in, however, is the ability of the individual to participate and contribute to the process, and the responsibility of the city council to solicit input and communicate their direction. After all, this entire process may have begun with an individual land owner selling their acreage to the developer to begin with.

The same holds true for the corporate enterprise architect. While enterprises are not democracies, so your EA can’t be recalled or replaced at the next review cycle by a vote of the developers, the best practices of a democratic style of government should be followed. The Enterprise Architect must be producing documents for upward communication (business and IT executives), lateral communication (other architects), and downward communication (developers, operators, engineers). Likewise, they should be soliciting input from all three directions, as well. Communication should never be one-way, nor should it be one size fits all. Some of the best ideas may come from people in the trenches, and some of those people may be a future architect. I was one of those people in an organization some 7 years ago. Annie’s paper points the importance of communication and collaboration with this statement:

…the entrprise architects’ role extends well beyond software coding specifications. Instead they must also act as the chief enablers of borderless collaboration by coordinating and prioritizing the input from disparate groups with different needs, interests, and views, including business stakeholders, software architects, developers, and DBAs, as well as external partners, suppliers, providers, customers, auditors, and so on.

Brenda pointed out that this document hasn’t been published yet. Based upon this excerpt, I hope it will be published. Add me to the list of interested parties.

4 Responses to “City Planning”

  • […] Both of these articles raise some interesting points, and for the discussion, we need to go back to the city planning analogy that I recently discussed. If we were to equate these two technology related activities back to the city planning analogy, what would we have? In the case of the doctor that built his own electronic outpatient records system, let’s look at a recycling program. It’s entirely possibly that a homeowner’s organization could use some of the dues collected and implement a recycling program for an individual subdivision. It’s even possible for an individual homeowner to take their recycling to some provider elsewhere. Does it work? Absolutely. Is it cost-effective at the city level? Well, maybe not. Every individual getting in their car and driving to the nearest recycling center will be more expensive than a few trucks coming from the center for curbside pickup. The homeowners organization may be slightly more cost effective, but if each subdivision picks their own provider, you could have problems with far more recycling trucks on the street than are really necessary. The real concern, however, comes back to the problems in the first place. Why didn’t the city council put a recycling program in place? The fact that the city failed to act on this in a timely manner for its citizens is what causes a homeowner or homeowner’s organization to take matters into their own hands. […]

  • […] Vilas posted a response to some of the postings (here and here) I made regarding the relationship of city planning to EA/SOA. He provides an example of a business sponsor that promotes a program that can add million dollars to the bottom line, but has an extremely short timeline, one that requires the existing architectural guidelines, principles, and processes to be short-circuited, or more likely, completely ignored. He compares this effort to a slum getting developed in a nice city. […]

  • I have posted some entries on ITtoolbox regarding the analogy of city planning.

    information city planning

  • […] The Open Group has also stepped up to the plate on the issue with a certification program, community development initiatives and portals, as well as outreach to academia to begin to fashion better course work for curricula that support architects on the SOA plane. They like to use the analogy of a city planner approach to IT architecture — not just focusing on the buildings but all the support and holistic interactions to make the whole thing work. […]

Leave a Reply


This blog represents my own personal views, and not those of my employer or any third party. Any use of the material in articles, whitepapers, blogs, etc. must be attributed to me alone without any reference to my employer. Use of my employers name is NOT authorized.