"Sort2013 Part II: Design Thinking"

Posted on Sat 19 October 2013 in conferences

This lecture was given by Brandon Gillespie and it was fantastic. Below are my attempts at creating reasonable information based on the lecture given.

This was a fantastic presentation that focused on delving into ideas of archiecture progress and helpful hints that can help keep an architect moving in the correct direction. This session did not have any focus on specific tools so should not be limited to a certain "type" of architect.

To start there is a comment that I would share:

How often do we get stuck "looking at the shingles" as it where and forget what the real purpose of the "house" we are building was to begin with?

Overview of "Architect" in IT

There are a few fundamental facets of a good architect.

  • Planning - Managing Change across time and expectations
  • Analysis - Decomposition of complex systems
  • Communication - Trusted Translator


Planning is a fundamental aspect of architecture and design.

  • Principle element of design!
  • Need to constantly change and improve
  • Changes takes A LONG TIME

To compare the importance of it changing, lets compare it to a spoken language. And when is a spoken language considered "dead"?

A Language is considered dead when it STOPS CHANGING

When you are planning there are a few key elements to put into play, for each plan you do. First you need to "make sure you really know where you are going". This is fundamental since the longer you are working on a plan the greater the likelyhood that you will run into a block in the road. When you reach these blocks you will need to 'fork' your decisions to achieve your end goal, but if you haven't made sure where you are going you, these forks will end up pushing you farther and farther away from your real goal.

A great analogy of this behavoid can be found when compared to a farmer. Imagine a farmar who is plowing the field. When you start plowing, farmers will pick a post or some other set point as a 'goal' for him to reach. This "goal on the horizon" could be a fence post or other landmark. This allows him to move around rocks and other "blockers" when tilling, but still make the original plan he had from the beginning.


Decompose Complex to Simple

The analysis section can be broken down into two seperate categories as well, A Perspective on time that helps us to better understand how long decisions and adaptions will take and Standards.

Perspective of Time

How we view the time we spend on a given problem or project allow us to can categorize the mindset that is used.

  • Operations - Now to a few months
  • Engineering - A few months to a year
  • Architect - Years


Working from a baseline and seeing what the variant from the "standard" that we want to see. You need to see the variant difference (through documentation) so that you can use it to better analysis and define a system.

  • Flexible, accomodating
  • Allows for variances, documented by TCO

There are a couple of things that you will need to watch out for when working with Standards. The most important of these is to not create too many standards, especially those that will be hard to adopt. You also need to make sure that your standards don't become a roadblock in the work you are doing.


This is a critical section that needs to be well thought out and understood. Infact this might be more important than many of the other areas for an architect to be good at, since if they can't communicate their thoughts and plans, those who were told will likely never achieve the expected results.

If you cannot explain something to me in a way I can understand it, than I assume that you don't understand it.

This means that if you are communicating with a relatively intelligent person you should be able to come up with some metaphor or story or description that can be used to help them understand.

Design Thinking

Methodology for execution of a vision

To really get you in the mode, here are some insipring quotes

  • Vision without Execution is Hallucination - Thomas Edision
  • You can't plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind - President Hinckley
  • A goal without a plan is just a wish - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Design thinking is a form of solution-based thinking focusing on the desired achievement instead of the problem. This can help to properly bring vision to fruition (Designed vs Organic Result)


  • Define
  • Research
  • Ideation
  • Prototype
  • Objectives
  • Implemented
  • Learn


When going through the Define process you should start by determining the issues that are going to be resolved. These are the true needs of the application or project but they are not the requirements. Once these requirements have been defined, the next step is to prioritize the effort in terms of urgency. And finally, you need to have some measure that can be used to determine what is considered success.


  • Review history (Have we done this before, did we fail, why)
  • Talk to end user - invite for design processes to specify needs (not requirements)
  • Identify thought leader's and their roles


Clearly identify the needs and motivations of your end users (requirements analysis)

Brainstorm * Make sure the group idea is the same and focused on requirements


Prototype are THROW AWAY not "prototype for production", Sometimes you need to recognize and be able to express when the cost of keeping a prototype is more than re-writing.

  • Rapid
  • Quicky understand direction
  • Multiple different drafts
  • Reserve judgment, maintain neutrality in code and DON'T BE OFFENDED
  • Be sure to create and present actual working prototypes.
  • Final result of a prototype should be able to create a refined selection of ideas

Make sure you can quickly recognize when you are going the wrong direction


This is the align of the prototype and the real requirements.

  • Set aside emotion and ownership of ideas
  • The most practical solution is not always the best solution


Never touch a production system, you can build a brand new environemnt in parallel and then cut over to it. This can make less man power to complete and may not as expensive.

Create and execute a custom implementation plan.


Study what you implemented to learn what to do (or not do) in the future.


  • Negativity - People who only think why it won't work rather than a solution
  • Fear
  • Resistance
  • Devils Advocate - Good to have as long as you don't become a Negative person