Architects of Change at SATURN 2010

What a month it has been: busy, tiring, but full of energy and thought-provoking exchanges!

SATURN attendance has been growing steadily since its inception in 2005, and this year’s conference was no exception with attendees from 14 countries, representing more than 70 organizations. More importantly, the level of sincerity in sharing lessons learned through the presentations and the spirit of collaboration beyond the sessions that spilled into the evening activities was remarkable. Attendees were busy learning from each other and exchanging ideas until the minute their shuttles were ready to take them to the airport Friday afternoon (me included—I had to run out of the door.)

Here are my takeaways from this year’s conference, which is by no means an all-inclusive list, nor does it cover all the high quality presentations:

  • A key theme this year was bridging agile software development and software architecture. We heard from thought leaders representing the agile and architecture communities, Jim Highsmith and Philippe Kruchten. Highsmith summarized architects’ responsibilities in accelerating agility as being not only architects of structure, but also time and transition, creating agile design rules, and developing technical-debt prevention and reduction strategies. Kruchten offered us the zipper metaphor for combining functional features and architectural tasks in iteration planning. The co-presentation made by Stevie Borne (agile coach) and Dave Henricksen (architect) in sharing their experiences from Thomson Reuters was compelling in describing how people from different camps can work effectively together. All in all, the message we all heard is that agile development and software architecture are not incompatible; however, everyone has to do their share to contribute to the cause, which is building high quality software that meets its business and stakeholder goals.
  • System evolution was another strong thread among this year’s presentations. Having an architecture roadmap can have significant impact in increasing the quality of the end result. This view was unanimously shared by presenters from ABB, Credit Suisse, and Ford Motor Company. The attendees awarded Anthony Tsakiris from Ford Motor Company the Architecture in Practice Award for his especially insightful presentation on Managing Software Interfaces of On-Board Automotive Controllers.
  • The size and complexity of systems are increasing as we rely more on software. Ultra-large scale systems and systems of systems introduce new phenomena that we need to come to terms with, such as the need to accept failures as normal. The keynote by Wayne Longcore informed us about the challenges in one such system, the Smart Grid, which is having increasing economic and strategic relevance for many organizations. We also heard from Elizabeth Sisley on the same topic; Elizabeth presented ways in which the National Institute of Standards and Technology is incorporating notions of enterprise architecting into its Smart Grid standardization efforts.

What next? We already selected the presentations that had high positive feedback from the audience and also met the IEEE Software and SEI joint technical committee’s criteria. We will be contacting the presenters soon to give them further information. Nanette Brown, the technical chair of SATURN 2011, has already been hard at work planning next year’s SATURN conference and activities with the SATURN team.

I also cannot help reflect on some of the fearless change patterns that we heard from Linda Rising.

Evangelists: The SATURN community strongly believes in the power of well-designed architectures to take organizations and products to success. The passion of the community is reflected in how people in the trenches take the time from their busy schedules and contribute their insights and experiences.

Personal touch: The SATURN team strives to keep all communication channels open. We cannot promise that we will be able to incorporate everything we hear, but we do listen. Let us know how we can improve. Use the SATURN blog, the SATURN LinkedIn group, or simply send us an email at or to any of us personally.

Ask for help: anyone who would like to help, please let us know, and we will count the ways :-). If you think you have experiences worth sharing, we hope you will prepare a proposal and submit it next year.

And last but not least, we say,

THANKS! Thanks to all who attended, presented, and contributed to the organization of SATURN 2010. And thanks for your continued involvement.

Ipek Ozkaya, SEI
SATURN 2010 Technical Chair


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