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37 Things or "Where have all my ramblings gone?"

July 5, 2016

ABOUT ME
Gregor Hohpe
Hi, I am Gregor Hohpe, co-author of the book Enterprise Integration Patterns. I like to work on and write about asynchronous messaging systems, service-oriented architectures, and all sorts of enterprise computing and architecture topics. I am also the Chief Architect at Allianz SE, one of the largest insurance companies in the world.

About two years ago, I revived the ramblings from a four-year hibernation. Upon resurrection, the ramblings started to take a broader scope, including not only messaging, conversations, and patterns, but also communication and IT architecture topics. The new topics were a natural reflection of my new role as Chief Architect in a massive IT transformation and after a little while I decided that they deserve their own channel, so I wrote a book about it.

IT Transformation

IT transformation has become quite a popular word as traditional enterprises are coming under pressure from "digital disruptors" who innovate faster, at lower cost, and don't have to deal with legacy. Such transformations often focus on IT organizations and systems architecture as enterprises understand that IT is no longer a necessary evil, but a critical business enabler. Sadly, an IT department that has been run as a cost center for years or decades while valuing stability over change, is not well prepared to provide business agility and flexibility to the business.

IT architects can and must play a critical role in such transformations because they combine the technical, communication, and organizational skill to organize and apply information technology for measurable business benefit. They understand what "being agile" and "DevOps" really mean and what cultural, organizational, and technical changes are needed to implement them. They know that shoving random monoliths into a Docker container doesn't make them cloud-native. And they can weigh the risk of new technology against the need to transform. It's no surprise then that software and IT architects have become some of the most sought-after IT professionals around the globe.

The architects' job is not an easy one, though: they must maneuver a rigid organization where IT is still seen as a cost center, where operations means "run" as opposed to "change", and where middle-management has become cozy neither understanding the business strategy nor the underlying technology. On top of all this, the affected organizations are often still quite profitable, reducing their appetite for change: non-IT-savvy management may be quite content with the status quo and actively resist change as that will expose their ignorance. Vendors like to introduce new technology, but are also generally happy having their clients not too IT savvy lest they no longer require services.

37 Things One Architect Knows about IT Transformation

37 Things CoverTo assist architects who are involved in an IT transformation or are contemplating taking a bigger role, I decided to write down my experiences into a collection of short essays of about 1500 - 2500 words, slightly longer than the average rambling. I absorbed a handful of ramblings into the book, including the classic Starbucks rambling, but edited and expanded all of them to make them fit for print publication.

I structured the topics into 5 sections:

  1. What does it mean to be an architect?
  2. How architecture influences digital transformation.
  3. How to communicate to a broad range of stakeholders.
  4. How to understand organizational structures and systems.
  5. How to achieve change and transformation.

To set myself a concrete target, I decided that I would write 37 essays on the topic and named the book 37 Things One Architect Knows. Why 37 things and not 36 or 38? 37 is a nice prime number with a mellow sound to it. The title is also a spoof on O'Reillys 97 Things books, to which I contributed.

Borrowing from the ramblings, I gave the essays catchy titles like:

  • Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job
  • If Software Eats the World, Better Use Version Control!
  • Show the Kids the Pirate Ship!
  • Sketching Bank Robbers
  • Control is an Illusion
  • Governance Through Inception
  • No Pain, no Change!
  • Economies of Speed
  • The Infinite Loop
  • Money can’t buy Love.

The writing process was fairly fast jsut over 72,000 words written from February until end of June, in just 5 months. That's almost 500 words a day, or about 2 "things" a week. Not quite on par with the popular 750 Words thing, but also without the motivating metrics. I guess the somewhat annoying Island Paradise Blogger dude (link intentionally omitted) would have written 70,000 words in just a week... ah well. I'll try it next time I am in Phuket. Actually, I did write 2 chapters while in Mai Kao so maybe there is something very inspiring about Thailand.

Buy the e-Book

37 Things BookYou can buy the e-book DRM-free in epub, mobi, and pdf formats at leanpub.com/37things. There's also a free preview.

When writing a book about the digital, fast moving world, publishing an e-book seems most appropriate. Leanpub is a nifty little platform that allows you to write your book in markdown with a local GIT workflow and Dropbox synchronization. They also allow readers to chose the price they want to pay, making them an interesting mix of a publishing platform and Kickstarter.

Buy a Printed Copy

You can buy printed copies at Lulu or Amazon. Feel free to contact me for volume discounts, e.g. for a lecture or workshop. I also provide copies to workshop participants.

See 37 Things Live

Communication and organizational transformation skills are difficult to learn from books, so I decided to offer 2-day seminars on the topic, which include many exercises. I mostly offered them as open enrollment in German so far, but am also happy to conduct them on-site. Contact me if you are interested.

What's Next?

What will happen to the ramblings now? 37 Things started out as the procrastination project for EIP 2. Now that I have the 37 things out of my system, I will start rambling and writing about conversation patterns again.

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Gregor is the Chief IT Architect of Allianz SE. He is a frequent speaker on asynchronous messaging and service-oriented architectures and co-authored Enterprise Integration Patterns (Addison-Wesley). His mission is to make integration and distributed system development easier by harvesting common patterns and best practices from many different technologies.
www.eaipatterns.com