We are the Borg, our role is Architecture Owner!

I was usually the guy who facilitated different architecture related sessions at HaMIS – Port of Rotterdam. As soon as I was absent for few weeks, nobody organised them in those weeks. During retrospective meeting, several of them would mention they missed those meetings and blamed themselves that nobody thought or took responsibility for organising them. The simple conclusion and reason for this problem was: Viktor usually organised them, and he is the architect.

Every now and then I get in discussion with people about different roles we have in software development. For example, it starts with explanation that Scrum needs someone to be responsible for architecture. That role is named e.g. “Architecture Owner”. Then I try to explain that from Agile perspective, we would like to have whole team feel responsible for the architecture. Having one guy call himself architecture owner, tester, analyst will clearly contradict this goal. The answer is then: Oh no, there is no problem at all. We just need to have architecture role and it does not need to be one person. It can certainly be fulfilled by whole team.

Theoretically, it is possible to have multiple people fulfilling one role. The interesting thing is that nobody really does something like that in reality. It is just confusing. You either have specific group of people with dedicated responsibilities as a group with specific name (Scrum team, architecture team, Centre of Excellence, etc) or a single person. I never heard group of people say about themselves: “Our role is architecture owner!” or any other role in that sense.

So, what is the point of having a role if whole team should fulfil it?! It is just a responsibility or discipline that needs to be taken care of. What is this need to introduce new roles? The suggestion that with such role team would better take care of architectural aspects does not make much sense. Teams might need knowledge and experience to fulfil their responsibility for certain aspect as architecture, but that has nothing to do with ownership or having a role.

In contrary, teams tend to neglect certain responsibilities simply because someone else is appointed and granted a role called blablabla owner. How ironic, the whole problem of taking responsibility is actually created by people whose intentions are to solve it.

It it were some very specific task, which requires knowledge very few people have and it must be done properly, I would understand. But, architecture is one the most important disciplines in software development. It is extremely important that whole team feels responsible and most team members should have the knowledge for dealing with complexities of architecture. The reality is of course that many teams do not have this knowledge. Very often this proves to be the cause of total failure of an Agile team. There are many ways to solve this problem. Introducing a new role is not one of them. It merely maintains suboptimal state of having one or few people keeping responsibility from the place it should be.

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