this article I define the four high-level roles of the
Data method. Any
single individual can hold more than one of these roles, and several people may
be in the same role. An important concept to understand is that although the responsibilities of
each role vary widely that any individual in a given role may not fulfill them
all, or at least not focus on all of them.
For example an application developer may choose to focus on Java
development on a specific project even though they also have significant
modeling and project management skills. Agile
IT professionals are
generalizing specialists, and when they
fulfill a role they will often focus on one or more responsibilities of that
role, perhaps because they have been asked to “trouble shoot” those efforts
or perhaps because they want to gain deeper experience in an existing or new
specialty. This is an example of
philosophy to your skill set, avoiding the extremes
of being either a specialist or a generalist.
This article is organized into the following sections:
- The mindset of agile software developers
- Working together effectively
- Short a few roles?
1. The Mindset of Agile Software Developers
An underlying assumption of the Agile Data method is that your organization
want to take an
agile approach to software development.
Agile software development reflects a shift of mindset by IT
professionals, a new way of thinking. To
succeed at the Agile Data method, people in these four roles must have this
mindset, a mindset that is characterized by the following philosophies.
Agile software developers recognize the importance of working together
effectively with others and will act accordingly.
They have the humility to respect and appreciate the views and abilities
of others, without this humility they are unlikely to willingly choose to
collaborate with other. A critical
implication is that everyone is going to have to rethink the way that they work
and be willing to change for the greater good.
The attitude that “my group is the center of the universe and everyone
has to conform to our vision and follow our process” doesn't work well.
Agile software developers actively seek to define an overall approach that
everyone agrees to. My experience
is that processes imposed from the top are very likely to fail because all it
takes is one group to reject the process and “go rogue”.
A better process improvement strategy is to organically grow a workable
software process that reflects the needs of everyone involved.
Because IT professionals are intelligent people with valuable skills you
are likely to find that a collection of principles that everyone agrees to is
often the most important part of an effective process.
In the case of the Agile Data method this is the values and principles of
agile software development as well as the
Agile Data philosophies.
An interesting observation is that you likely need a lot less
describing how people should work together than you think.
For example, consider the processes by which you obtain food.
Clearly this is a very important part of your life because starving
isn't much fun, yet I doubt very highly that you have a detailed process
written down about how you do it. Furthermore,
I doubt that your local grocery store has written procedures that you must
follow in order to purchase food from them even though this is also a process
that is critical to their success because it's hard to stay in business
without any customers. Many aspects
of software development can also be like this – once you have an agreed to
process in place that everyone understands you can follow that process
successfully. New people can get
involved with and learn the process, I often see parents taking their children
with them to the grocery store, just as I see new employees in IT departments.
The process can evolve over time, my local grocery store started
accepting debit cards a few years ago and everyone involved can adjust
accordingly. Yes, software
development is a lot harder than shopping, but the basic ideas hold.
When there is a common vision in place, when people agree to and conform
to that vision, and when people understand how to go about their part of the
process then there is little need for detailed procedures (even if you had then
people aren't going to
read it anyway).
Agile software developers are willing to “co-locate” with others as
needed. You might need to give up
your comfortable cubicle or office for a while to work in a shared team space,
or even have someone share your office to work with you on a project.
This reflects the fact that communication and collaboration are critical
to your success, you are much more effective working with others than you are
communication is a two way street you also need to
listen as well as talk.
Agile software developers are
The implication is that everyone needs to have a wide range of skills and
be willing to work with others to improve upon existing skills and to learn new
ones. At the present moment it is
unrealistic to expect many people to have this range of skills, many IT
professionals are narrowly specialized in one aspect of the software process,
but over time people can upgrade their skills if they choose to do so.
People new to the IT industry will always need to start somewhere and
will clearly need time to come up to speed.
Agile software developers are also prepared to tailor their approach to meet
the needs of the projects they are involved with.
For example a project team working on a reporting database may very well
take a data-driven approach to development, using conceptual data models as the
primary analysis artifact and physical data models as the primary design
artifacts. A project team working
on a business system is very likely to take a different approach, particularly
where the target platform uses object technology such as Java, C#, or Visual
Basic, using UML artifacts such as class diagrams, activity diagrams, and
sequence diagrams as primary artifacts.
one development process fits all applications.
Agile software developers recognize that documentation is a necessity in
their jobs, although something they can still be very effective at.
For example, enterprise architects recognize that the goal of enterprise
modeling is to produce effective models that meet the needs of their audience,
not to produce reams of documentation. They
recognize that many traditional architecture efforts fail because developers are
not willing to invest the time to wade through the documentation to learn the
developers realize that system documentation is required to support future
enhancement efforts and Agile DBAs realize that documentation is required
that describes the data sources that they support.
Agile software developers will take an agile approach to
documentation and produce well-written and concise documents that is
barely good enough for the situation at hand.
|Figure 1 presents a high-level overview of how people
in the four roles interact with one another, indicating the types of information
that they share with one another. The
diagram distinguishes between the project-level efforts of Agile DBAs and
application developers and the enterprise efforts of enterprise administrators
and enterprise architects because we need to recognize that the potential
division between these two types of efforts needs to be bridge.
At the project level the potential division between Agile DBAs and
application developers also needs to be bridged, as does any division between
people at the enterprise level. It
is interesting to see that each group has something to offer to the other
groups, the implication being that everyone needs to be prepared to work with
Figure 1. Interactions between Agile Data roles.
Let's examine each role in greater detail.
An Agile DBA (Schuh 2001) is anyone who is actively involved with the creation and
evolution of the data aspects of one or more applications.
The responsibilities of this role potentially includes, but is not
limited to, the responsibilities typically associated with the traditional roles
of database programmers, database administrators (DBAs), data testers, data
modelers, business analysts, project managers, and deployment engineers.
This is the type of role that a DBA within a small organization typically
finds themselves in – a “data jack of all trades”.
Agile DBAs work closely with application developers,
typically supporting a single larger team or several smaller teams as the case
may be. Agile DBAs can often be
responsible for several data sources (e.g. databases, files, XML structures, and
so on) or at least be co-responsible for them.
For example, if two development team access the same database, and each
of them have their own Agile DBA, then those two people will need to work
together to evolve that database over time.
This is slightly different than Schuh's original vision of an Agile DBA
– his focus was on how a DBA can be effective on a single team whereas Agile
Data looks at the entire enterprise.
The biggest potential change for Agile DBAs is that they will need
to work in an iterative and incremental manner for with many project teams.
Modern development processes, such as
Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), typically don't provide detailed requirements up front nor do they
focus on detailed models (and certainly not detailed data models up front).
They evolve their models over time to reflect their changing
understanding of the problem domain as well as the changing requirements of
their stakeholders. Some project teams may choose to work in a more serial
manner, they may even choose to produce a detailed conceptual data model early
in their lifecycle, but those teams will be few and far between although you
will be expected to support them too. Agile DBAs will need to communicate the constraints imposed by legacy data
sources, working with application developers to understand those constraints and
Agile DBAs will evolve their
legacy data schemas over time, applying
common data refactorings as appropriate and working with new tools to evolve and
migrate their data schemas over time. This
is a difficult but necessary task. Agile DBAs will also need to work with application developers to model their
data needs, working with UML-based artifacts such class diagrams with some
project teams and conceptual data models with other teams.
Agile DBAs will work with application developers to write and test
database code such as stored procedures, data-oriented code within applications
that interacts with their data sources, and even aid in mapping the application
schema to the data schema. Performance
tuning, both of the database and of data-oriented code and mappings within
applications, is an important aspect of the job.
Agile DBAs work with
enterprise administrators who are responsible for
maintaining and evolving the corporate meta-data describing your enterprise and
your corporate development standards and guidelines.
Agile DBAs will use this information, and follow the standards and
guidelines, as well as provide valuable feedback.
Agile DBAs will also interact with enterprise administrators and
other Agile DBAs to evolve the various enterprise data sources over time.
Agile DBAs also work with
enterprise architects to ensure that their
work fits into the overall picture and to help evolve the enterprise
architecture over time.
For the sake of the Agile Data method an
application developer is anyone who
is actively involved with the creation and evolution of the non-data aspects of
a software application.
The responsibilities of this role can include the
responsibilities traditionally associated to the “traditional roles” of
programmers, modelers, testers, team leads, business analysts, project managers,
and deployment engineers. Application
developers work very closely with Agile DBAs who are responsible for
working on the data aspects of one or more applications.
Application developers must recognize that your although your primary focus
is fulfilling the current needs of your direct project stakeholders that they
also need to recognize that their project exists within the larger scope of your
organization. This philosophy
reflects Agile Modeling's principles
Software Is Your Primary Goal and
the Next Effort is Your Secondary Goal – in this case part of the next
effort is ensuring that your project conforms to the overall enterprise vision.
Application developers are best served by recognizing that they are
working on one project of many within their organization, that many projects
came before theirs, that many projects will come after theirs, and therefore
they need to work with people in the other roles to ensure that they do the
Application developers will adopt and follow agile software development
processes such as Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD). When it comes to
documentation they are likely to enhance these processes with the
practices of Agile Modeling (AM).
All three of these processes, being agile, implores
developers to work closely with their project stakeholders.
An implication is that developers are responsible for helping to educate
stakeholders, including both users and managers, in the basics of software
development to help them make more informed decisions when it comes to
Application developers will often find that they are constrained by they
legacy systems, including
legacy data schemas.
These systems will often be very difficult to evolve, and if they can
evolve will often happen very slowly. Luckily
Agile DBAs will be able to help application developers deal with the
realities imposed upon them by legacy data sources, but they will need to work
with enterprise administrators and more so with enterprise architects to ensure
that their efforts reflect the long-term needs of your organization.
Application developers will also need to recognize that they need to follow
their organization's development practices, including the
standards supported by
Application developers are expected to provide feedback regarding the
standards and guidelines, every in the organization should do so, and should be
prepared two work with the enterprise administrators to develop guidelines for
development environments that are new to your organization.
Application developers also need to work closely with
to ensure that their project takes advantage of existing enterprise resources as
well as fits into the overall enterprise vision.
The enterprise architects should be able to provide this guidance and
will work with your team to architect and even build your system.
Furthermore, application developers should expect to be mentored in
“senior” skills such as architecture and modeling.
This approach makes it easy for your team to support enterprise efforts
and helps to keep the enterprise architects grounded because they quickly
discover if their architecture actually works in practice.
An enterprise administrator is anyone who is actively involved in
identifying, documenting, evolving, protecting, and eventually sunsetting
corporate IT assets. These assets
include corporate data, corporate development standards/guidelines (e.g.
modeling guidelines or
coding guidelines), and
assets such as components, frameworks, and services. The responsibilities of
this role potentially includes, but is not limited to, the responsibilities
associated with traditional roles of data administrators, network
administrators, reuse engineers, and software process specialists.
It is interesting to note that the role of data administrator, while
clearly very important, isn't sufficient in an agile environment because of
it's narrow focus on data.
Good enterprise administrators are
generalizing specialists, one specialty could in fact be in data administration, who
understand a wide range of issues pertinent to the enterprise.
Enterprise administrators recognize that there is more to this job than data
administration, and like Agile DBAs they will work in an
evolutionary manner when required to.
This is because enterprise administrators work closely with Agile DBAs, and to a lesser extent application developers, who will very
often work in this manner. Enterprise
administrators work with Agile DBAs to ensure that their databases reflect
the overall needs and direction of the enterprise.
Enterprise administrators will find ways to communicate the
importance of their role to Agile DBAs and application developers, and the
best way to do this is to focus on things that will make them more effective in
their jobs – few people refuse a helping hand.
Trying to “impose your will” through onerous processes or management
edicts very likely won't work well, and in fact will likely result in you being
Enterprise administrators work with both Agile DBAs and application
developers to ensure that these folks understand the corporate standards and
guidelines that they should follow.
However, their role is to support the standards and
guidelines, not enforce them. A
good rule of thumb is that if you need to act as “standards police” then you
have lost the battle and that it is very likely your fault because you didn't
communicate the standards well, didn't gain support, or tried to enforce
unrealistic guidelines. If the
standards and guidelines make sense, if they're written well, if they're
easy to conform to then data and application developers should be willing to
follow them. However, when this is
not the case, when the standards and guidelines aren't appropriate or place an
inordinate burden on projects then enterprise administrators should expect
pushback. Yes, some individuals may
chaff at following standards and guidelines but that's something that project
managers will need to deal with.
When pushback occurs enterprise administrators work with the project team(s)
explore and address the problem.
They are prepared to evolve the standards and guidelines over
time to reflect lessons learned and the changing realities of your organization.
One size will not fit all – your relational database naming conventions
may be very different from your Java naming conventions and that's ok because
those are two different environments with two different sets of priorities.
Enterprise administrators work closely with enterprise architects to
communicate the constraints imposed by the current environment to the
architects. More importantly the
enterprise administrators need to understand the future direction envisioned by
the enterprise architects to ensure that their efforts support the long-term
direction of your organization.
An enterprise architect is anyone who is actively involved in the creation,
evolution, and support/communication of enterprise models.
These models describe a wide variety of views, one of which may be data
oriented, although network/hardware views, business process views, usage views,
and organizational structure views (to name a few) are equally as valuable.
The responsibilities of this role potentially includes, but is not
limited to, the responsibilities associated with the traditional roles of
enterprise data architects, enterprise process architects, enterprise network
architects, and so on. As with the
role of enterprise administrator, the role of enterprise architect has a greater
scope than just that of data – they instead look at the entire enterprise
picture. Enterprise architects main
job is to look into the future, to attempt to identify a direction in which the
organization is going and hence determine how its IT infrastructure needs to
evolve. Enterprise architects are
naturally constrained by the current situation your organization finds itself
in, its environment, and its capability to evolve.
Enterprise architects focus on a wide variety of architectural issues, data
being one of many. Their main goal
is to develop and then support enterprise architectural models.
It isn't sufficient for an enterprise architect to produce good models,
they must evangelize those models, work with development teams, and educate
senior management in the implications of the architecture of in system-related
issues in general. In addition to
the CIO and CTO of your organization your enterprise architects are likely to
have the most visibility with senior management, therefore they need to be
prepared to aid senior management to make strategic decisions.
Enterprise architects work with Agile DBAs and with application
developers. The most important thing that enterprise architects can do is to
“walk the talk” and roll up their sleeves and get actively involved with the
project. This will earn the respect
of the developers, dramatically increasing the chance that they'll actually
understand and follow the vision of the enterprise architecture.
The advantage of this approach is that it provides immediate and concrete
feedback as to whether the architecture actually works and provides valuable
insights for how the architecture needs to evolve.
Enterprise architects are prepared to work in an iterative and incremental
manner. They are ill-advised to try
to create an all-encompassing set of enterprise models at first.
envision an initial, high-level architecture and then work closely
with one or more development teams to make sure it works.
Agile Modeling includes a practice called
Model in Small Increments
which is based on the idea that the longer you model without receiving concrete
feedback, such at that provided by an actual project, the greater the chance
that your model doesn't reflect the real-world needs of your organization.
Agile enterprise architects avoid ivory-tower architectures this way.
You may find
The EUP Enterprise Architecture Discipline and
The EUP Enterprise Business Modeling Discipline to be of
Your organization may not have people in these roles right now.
Perhaps you're a very small organization with only a few developers or
perhaps you're a mid-size organization that hasn't yet come to grips with
the architectural and administration issues experienced by larger or
longer-lived firms. Don't worry,
you will. You're actually in an
enviable position because you can do it right from the start.
You might not have anyone dedicated to the role of enterprise
architecture, let a group of people, but the fact still remains that you will
need to come to grips with the issues that enterprise architects deal with.
Perhaps enterprise architecture is something that your senior developers,
and even your junior developers, discuss when they're building new systems but
never take the time to put it on paper. That's
all right, the important thing is that you think about it.
The same can be said of enterprise administration, perhaps it's
something that your Agile DBAs do as part of their day-to-day jobs.