In Conversation with Simon Brown


Ahead of his keynote talk, we spoke to Simon Brown about his own experiences and what is next for those wanting to Build IT Right!

What is your current role?

I have two roles at the moment. The first is that I’m an independent consultant specialising in software architecture. Much of this involves running workshops around the world, where I teach teams about software architecture, and how to visualise/communicate their software systems using my C4 model. And the other is that I’m the founder of a startup company called Structurizr, which provides a modern lightweight tooling approach to software architecture diagramming and modelling, again based around my C4 model.

What does Building IT Right mean to you?

Given that software development still isn’t seen as a “proper” engineering discipline, my current view of building IT right is basically about being a professional. As an industry, we’ve moved away from the very heavy and structured approaches of the 1990’s, to the lightweight agile approaches that we have today. And while this is generally positive, many teams can’t articulate how they develop software, in terms of the process they follow, and the techniques they use. Ultimately, I’d like to see more structure and discipline than what we have right now, but building IT right at the moment is about not taking shortcuts, and ensuring that you understand what you’re doing. That probably sounds obvious, but my experience suggests that many teams have a long way to go.

Why should Build IT Right visitors attend your talk?

Software architecture is something that all software developers need to know about, as it underpins much of what we do. However, much of this has been lost over the past ~20 years, and software architecture has fallen out of fashion following the creation of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, and its widespread misinterpretation. My talk is about the five things that every software developer should know about software architecture. It’s about introducing a new generation of software developers to the essence of software architecture, answering questions such as “how much up front design should we do?” and “what is the role of a software architect in our modern agile world?”.

What innovations in the industry impress you the most?

The innovation that springs to mind is the cloud, plus the services and process that have been created around it (e.g. continuous delivery). Taking away the complexity of purchasing hardware and provisioning infrastructure provides an absolutely massive efficiency boost to teams. My own startup company is entirely cloud-based for this exact reason - we’ve been able to deliver real value to our users and customers rather than spending lots of time provisioning and managing infrastructure.

What do you think will be the next big thing in software?

Although Docker and Kubernetes is still gaining in popularity at the moment, in a way, I think this is actually a step backwards for many teams, because it’s encouraging software developers to think about infrastructure once again. I’m a big fan of Platform as a Service (PaaS), although it’s never really earned as much attention as containerisation. I still have a feeling that we’ll be seeing another iteration of PaaS that uses Docker/Kubernetes under the covers, yet provides a much better abstraction for developers to work with (i.e. “applications”, rather than raw containers). I’m also optimistic that we’ll see a return of software modelling again in the future. I don’t necessarily mean a return to UML, but lightweight modelling has been relatively under-explored to date.

Brown will be presenting at Build IT Right on Thursday 4th April at 5pm

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