Technologists of Today: Martin Fowler

Technologists of Today: Martin Fowler

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This series is inspired by fellow technologists, who have in turn inspired the CSW team. Our first post centers around Martin Fowler from Thought Works.

Martin Fowler - Technologist

Why we picked Martin.

Aristides, one of our Sr. Developers, is also an advocate of agile methodologies and open source.

About Martin.

Martin is a champion of Continuous Integration, a software development practice where members of a team integrate their work frequently to detect integration errors as quickly as possible; the approach leads to significantly reduced integration problems and allows a team to develop cohesive software more rapidly. He’s also an author (seven books so far) on software development, and a speaker.

About Thoughtworks.

Its team believes in revolutionizing software design, creation and delivery, while advocating for positive social change. Thoughtworks is made of 2500 employees dispersed in 12 countries. They produce agile development tools, write books, run events, talk at conferences, and champion open source. Their products’ names, said in a sentence, come out as “mingle go twist.”

About Martin’s work.

His work aims to understand how to design software systems, so as to maximize the productivity of development teams. He’s focused in understanding the patterns of good software design, and the processes that support software design. He became a big fan of agile approaches and the resulting focus on evolutionary software design.

Work that stands out: The Three Pillars.

Aristides finds inspiring that a company of this size actively works to view purpose and not simply a commercial entity. Thoughtworks developed a three-pillar model to describe the way wthey like to think of themselves. The three pillars to a company are Sustainable Business, Software Excellence, and Social Justice, for the company to be successful it has to balance the aims of all three pillars.

The Sustainable Business pillar is about ensuring they have a financially viable business. The Software Excellence pillar Martin calls a Professional Excellence pillar; “it’s about doing what you do really well”, and they take that pillar a step further by wanting to improve the software industry as a whole. The Social Justice pillar is about looking more broadly at the impact as a company: “are we making the world a better place?”

While the pillars are not fundamentally in conflict, they are often in tension – which is where the balancing comes in.

Software Excellence introduces interesting tensions with the Sustainable Business pillar. Thoughtworks are difficult consultants for their clients; they push hard for significant changes in how to do software, confident that their approaches are much better.
Another tension involves products. Their products division has to deal with feature requests for things that they don’t think help in delivering useful software. By not implementing them, they lose out in many check-box evaluations; but they prefer that to build tools to reinforce poor ways of working. Furthermore, their Software Excellence pillar means they miss out on many revenue opportunities with third party vendors.
Finally, the Social Justice pillar does lead to a lot of internal debate about whether to work for certain clients.

Martin likes to focus on the tensions between the pillars because he finds the balancing between them to be interesting, but also because there is a great deal of reinforcement between them.

The pillars model’s interestingness caught our attention, and will possibly get some conversations started.

More to follow on Martin.

Books

Talks

– His Twitter handle

– His Facebook feed