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i-Technology Viewpoint: Arranged Java Marriages

Wikipedia: "An arranged marriage is a marriage in which the marital partners are chosen by others"

As per Wikipedia, "an arranged marriage is a marriage in which the marital partners are chosen by others based on considerations other than the pre-existing mutual attraction of the partners."

This definition comes to mind when I see how large IT organizations prearrange "marriages" between Java application developers and architects. I'd like to discuss potential issues between architects and developers and, to avoid confusion, I'll keep quoting Wikipedia in italic font.

The Honeymoon
As soon as your IT department grows to more than a half of a dozen Java developers, the leader of the pack (the architect) suggests centralized creation of reusable components. This is an easy sell: your group is agile and still not too large and, if one of these components needs to be changed, the architect is right on the premises and he or she works for you and on your schedule. Developers know on which shelf a singleton object resides and where the date transformation utilities are located, and they are happily reusing them as the need arises. At this stage we can call relations be-tween developers and architects consensual.

The Family Life (Corporate Politics)
Time goes by, the economy is on the rise, and older Java species bring in the younger ones. The population increases. Management moves the architects from several application development units into a new group where they can increase reusability of the objects and frameworks across the enterprise.

When a new development project begins, you (the application developer) are told that you must use only the objects and frameworks recommended by the architecture group. Basically, you don't have a choice.

Noble families, especially reigning families, long used arranged marriage to consolidate their strengths and to join their kingdoms. The parents, who often arrange the marriages, are trusted to make a match that is in the best interest of their children; though there are times when the choosers select a match that serves their interest and not the couple's.

Yes, your architects create new components and frameworks, but don't they have to compete with outside third-party vendors? If Jakarta Commons has a generic pool object, why are you not allowed to use it in your project and have to use the homegrown pool instead?

Arranged marriages can also be very flexible. In one scenario, the parents introduce their son or daughter to several potential mates, while giving two the final decision, given some time.

Here's a typical conversation over the morning coffee:

  • Darling, I need a generic Java class that would run SQL queries that are given in an XML file.
  • No problem, honey. Now I'm working on a very exciting project: a global logger that will allow reading of any log file on any specified corporate workstation. But I'll definitely look into your request next month.
  • But I have my deadlines... Remember, you promised that my wish would be your order...
Architecture groups often turn themselves into small kingdoms where mere Java mortals are not allowed (they might have picked up this infection after multiple unsafe relations with Oracle DBAs). Their main business is now the evaluation and purchase of the third-party tools and the introduction of new software layers between these tools and business applications. They know how to talk the talk, and the CIO rests assured that everything goes well. Meanwhile, experienced application developers start to quietly develop their own components to meet their deadlines. Their weak attempts to offer these completed useful components back to the architecture group are not always well received.

Proponents of arranged marriages claim that arranged marriages are more successful than other marriages. They hold that the spouses in an arranged marriage begin without any expectations from each other, and that as the relationship matures, a greater understanding between the two develops.

The Family Budget
Who pays the architects' salaries? The architects usually cut slices from the approved budgets for business application development. I am absolutely not against such deals as long as the architects don't forget who makes their living. They can really save the firm's money by suggesting solutions leading to efficient utilization of existing server licenses, idling hardware, use of open source products, parallel computing, performing code reviews, mentoring of junior developers, delivering technical training (not the one that exists in the approved list of courses), and suggesting best practices that are immediately applicable to business systems.

Arranged marriages operate on the notion that marriages are primarily an economic union or a means to have children.

Unfortunately, not every marriage produces children.

Divorce Is Not an Option
It has also been said that in some cultures where divorce is forbidden or uncommon, arranged marriage would work out nicely because both husband and wife would accept the marriage, producing their best efforts to make it a success instead of breaking up at the slightest conflict.

Needless to say that application developers must also put their best foot forward and stop blaming architects when something doesn't work right. The chances are that you didn't spend enough time learning how to use these components. Maybe they're not that bad?

Oh well, it's time to take a shower, go to bed, and have relations with my spouse...oops...I meant to say it's time to go to a meeting with the Java architecture group.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a co-founder of two software companies: Farata Systems and SuranceBay. He authored several technical books and lots of articles on software development. Yakov is Java Champion (https://java-champions.java.net). He leads leads Princeton Java Users Group. Two of Yakov's books will go in print this year: "Enterprise Web Development" (O'Reilly) and "Java For Kids" (No Starch Press).

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