Information Systems

I have had this idea, but have been unable to come up for the vocabulary for it.

Consider the following framework for thinking about our work as software engineers. There is a product that you maintain, and something is not working as the customer wants it to, either since it’s a bug or a feature they want or need. The first step is to use information at our disposal in order to learn about our product, so to make a decision of the solution. The second step is to optimally implement that solution.

Given this framework, there are lots of books that tell you how to do the second step, for instance Clean Code or Design Patterns. I’m more interested in the first step. Some examples of the first step:

Now when we want to answer these questions, we actually have systems that can give us this information. By system, I mean either a set of habits, so can be relied upon e.g. git commits or a programmatic system e.g. an API.

Some examples of such systems:

Each system has a certain cost, to maintain it, and each system gets us some information with some degree of reliability. One of the problems I would like to think about is how to manage the set of systems an engineering team leverages in order to get the information they need for minimal cost? Another question, is that if one were to move to a new team, where the set of systems is different, or perhaps organised differently, how quickly can one orient themselves to the new set of systems.

Picture this scenario: You work somewhere, and you are very used to the set of systems available to you. You change your working team, either by moving teams or by moving companies. The new team organises things totally differently, and you feel lost because you’re in a different kitchen. One can assume the new team has a set of systems, and is not just running around in the dark like magicians or mute historians. You exclaim, “Hey team, you are not using one of the systems I was reliant upon in my old team, and I feel out of place, can everyone start using my system?”. Maybe you’ve said these words, maybe you’ve heard them. Here’s a more concrete example: “Hey, can everyone put jira ticket ids in front of git commit messages and inside the git pull requests, I find it really useful and am annoyed that I’m the only one doing it”. Which leads to an interesting question of how does a system organically get added, and organically leave? By asking people, and annoying them into it like a cop, you feel angry for forcing them, and they feel angry for being micromanaged. Maybe the information that you want to introduce is only seen as valuable by you, maybe they have another system which you have not found yet which gathers that information?

If you have better names for any of the things I am talking about, or want to discuss them just leave me a message and some way of contacting you. Also if you know anyone who has written about this and already explored these topics, then give me a shout, I’d love to read up on this.

If you want to discuss this topic, feel free to leave me a message or discuss on twitter.