Friday, April 17, 2009
Software Architecture and balancing stakeholder needs
I recognized recently that I blog a lot about computer security (because of several reasons). This is definitely not a boring topic. On the contrary, it’s complex, fascinating and a fast moving target. You need a decent understanding in computer science to keep up with all the things going on out there. On the other hand, the area of system security (comprising computer and network security) is full of misconceptions. Too many people still believe that a firewall is the silver bullet to keep out attackers, worms and other malware. I don’t comment on that anymore. But this never ending discussion leads me to one of my core competences – software architecture and all the team, communication and development related aspects. A software architect needs to understand stakeholder needs. Typical stakeholders are end user, developer, test stuff, marketing folks, project manager, just to name a couple of them. But understanding and documenting is not enough. A stable and successful architecture balances stakeholder needs and reflects this in all their lifecycle stages, from requirement management until testing, delivery and maintenance. I know this happens just in theory, in an ideal world somewhere in a software glasshouse. But we should strive to come closer. Achieving tradeoffs is an important success criterion in the process of creating a stable and lasting architecture. These tradeoffs should be the result of negotiations with the ultimate goal to come to a win-win situation for all participants (àstakeholders). From the technical perspective, most of the tradeoffs must be achieved between functional and non-functional requirements (aka quality attributes). From this we see that there is s strong link to security as an essential quality attribute in a connected world of ubiquitous computing and routed protocols. Many design decisions in the scope of security architecture are in marked contrast to the ideas of usability folks and the needs of project management. But these contradictions must be addressed and resolved, which might be a tough job. Anyhow, for the sake of a successful product achieving broad market acceptance, failing in balancing stakeholders needs is not option.