Conway’s law revisited

You may have heard of Conway’s law. It is a hypothesis that when an organisation makes a piece of software, the architecture of the software mirrors the org structure.

However, I just looked at the original paper, rather than the Wikipedia article and I found it worth a read. He presents not only the main theory on structure, but also other observations about how we break a large problem down and why we break it down. There are also some great points on how managers avoiding risk/blame makes these kind of consequences inevitable. Trend number 1, people aren’t getting any smarter. Basically, whichever comes first the software or the organisation, this kind of thing is almost inevitable.

You have to spend a little time getting over the constant military-industrial complex references (you can just feel the cold war hanging over you as you read it). Remember this is 1968 people scarcely even recognised programming as an activity, I quote:

    “The term interface, which is becoming popular among systems people, refers to the inter-subsystem communication path or branch represented by a line in Fig. 1. Alternatively, the interface is the plug or flange by which the path coming out of one node couples to the path coming out of another node.”

It’s been a while since I heard people explain what an interface is. Flange.

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