With this interview in our Voices series, we chat with Jonathan Adams who was the technical leader of the IBM solution architecture patterns – the IBM Patterns for e-business (P4eb). These solution architecture patterns have enabled IBMers, Customers and Business Partners to accelerate their development of solution architectures using proven architecture patterns. The current scope of the P4eb includes user-centric, process-centric and event-centric business solutions.
Jonathan recently retired from his role as a Distinguished Engineer at IBM – and we’re thrilled that he’s taken some time to chat with us about his work with patterns. He provides unique insights, as he was the technical leader of the P4eb for over 12 years. During that time he’s worked with IBMers, customers and IBM Business Partners worldwide in defining, enhancing and using these patterns.
Our thanks to Jonathan, and now on to the interview…
PBE.NET: What are the Patterns for e-business? Where did they come from?
Jonathan: The Patterns for e-business (P4eb) provide solution architecture patterns for common business solutions. They were built by applying the classical architectural skills of abstraction and refinement to proven business solutions.
PBE.NET: What has been the impact of the original release of the P4eb?
Jonathan: Many enterprises and IBM architects have accelerated the development of their solution architectures by reusing solution architecture patterns.
PBE.NET: What is the current status of the P4eb?
Jonathan: They have just been re-engineered for the 3rd time in 12 years in order to fully address the business problems seen in 2010 and the range of technologies currently available in the marketplace. For example the original P4eb focus was the development of new business solutions – and we now find we need to support the development of enhancements to existing business solutions as well.
PBE.NET: What was the biggest challenge(s) in your work with the P4eb?
Jonathan: The biggest challenge was to decide when the P4eb needed re-engineering, what new solution architecture patterns were required, and how they should best be applied within a solution development methodology.
PBE.NET: Looking forward, how do you see the use of patterns evolving?
Jonathan: The P4eb solution architecture patterns have always been used effectively by architects with strong abstraction skills and visual skills – but the next leap forward requires them to be embedded in tooling which supports leading solution architecture methodologies so that many more architects can benefit from them.
PBE.NET: How did you determine which patterns should be included in the P4eb?
Jonathan: I applied some very simple tests. Were the patterns generic (i.e. they had no industry bias) ? Had the Subject Matter Expert (SME) pattern creator developed patterns that a generalist editor (me) could understand and apply? Was the form of the patterns conformant to P4eb conventions and easy to navigate?
PBE.NET: How do you validate/test your patterns?
Jonathan: We work with architect practitioners who are SMEs to ensure that the abstractions are correct and match successful solutions they have implemented.
PBE.NET: What role do you see automation playing in the field of patterns?
Jonathan: Automation is absolutely key if we are to spread the value of patterns more widely. Without it, pattern-based engineering of solution architectures will remain the sole province of the pattern architect elite.
PBE.NET: What do you see as the biggest challenges in driving pattern use into an organization?
Jonathan: Good patterns are hard to create, so those organizations who focus on original pattern development often struggle. Whereas organizations which are willing to customize existing patterns to their needs achieve greater success – although there still needs to be a big focus on pattern education and communication across the organization with executive sponsorship.
PBE.NET: What advice do you have for someone getting started in using patterns?
Jonathan: Start with something you know. If you understand self-service application design, examine the Self-Service business pattern hierarchy on the P4eb web site and familiarize yourself with the pattern textual and graphical representation conventions.
Then start to adopt (and if necessary customize) these graphical representations for your solution architectures.
Finally, when you need to move out of your comfort zone into a new type of business solution, review the relevant part of the P4eb web site. Because you have already learnt the textual and graphical representations you will find you can navigate and learn the new solution architectures very quickly.