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Luke Hohmann talks with Bill Venners about the different roles of technical and marketing architects, the source of innovation, and the importance of pursuing the same vision of the future.
Luke Hohmann is a management consultant who helps his clients bridge the gap that often exists between business and technology. In his past experience, he has played many of the varied roles required by successful software product development organizations, including development, marketing, professional services, sales, customer care, and business development. Hohmann currently focuses his efforts on enterprise class software systems. He is the author of Journey of the Software Professional: A Sociology of Software Development (Prentice-Hall, 1997), which blends cognitive pyschology and organizational behavior into a model for managing the human side of software development. He is also the author of Beyond Software Architecture: Creating and Sustaining Winning Solutions (Addison-Wesley, 2003), which discusses software architecture in a business context.
On March 8, 2004, Bill Venners met with Luke Hohmann in Sunnyvale, California. In this interview, which will be published in multiple installments on Artima.com, Hohmann discusses software architecture in the context of business.
Bill Venners: In your book, Beyond Software Architecture, you talk about two kinds of people involved with software architecture, tarchitects and marketects. What are tarchitects and marketects?
Luke Hohmann: The tarchitect is the technical architect, whose role it is to make technical architecture decisions and see that they're implemented consistently by the team. [See Part IV.] The marketect is the marketing architect, the person who will take the solution to the market. The marketect makes sure the solution that's been crafted meets the needs of the market—not just the functional and non-functional needs, but the full set of needs: the distribution, the pricing, the channel, the documentation, the education of the market and the customer, the idea that "new and improved" really means new and improved and gets promoted as such, and so on.
Bill Venners: You say in your book, Beyond Software Architecture, that "Envisioning the future on behalf of customers, even when they can't articulate what they want, is the world-class marketect's key distinguishing feature." How can marketects and tarchitects envision the future on behalf of customers even when the customers can't articulate what they want?
Luke Hohmann: That's the source of innovation. I'll give you an example. At one point in my career I was working in the field of patent analysis, and I learned that citation analysis—how the different documents cite each other—is really important. I would see people draw out trees of citation relationships. At around the same time I saw the Inxight hyperbolic tree, and I put the two together. The Inxight hyperbolic tree was showing an org chart, but the nature of the citation relationship is also a hierarchy, so why not put the citation relationships in a tree? You could then see hundreds of thousands of citation relationships between documents. So I put the citation relationships in a tree, and the users loved it. It was one of those features where you think, "Wow, it's going to be hard to use," but it turned out it wasn't. The feature mapped into the users' model of how the documents are structured. It required virtually no training. Anyone (who knew how patents are structured) could pick it up.
No one had walked up to me and said, "Hey that's what I need." And no one actually said, "We have a problem understanding and looking at citation relationships." The idea came just from the ability to put two things together. That's a kind of envisioning the future that creates a better environment for the future. I even got a patent for it.