Artifact Misconceptions

February 18, 2011 |

I want to highlight some common misconceptions we hear related to the use of formal artifacts…

  1. “We don’t have time to produce those documents.” Typically, the time-consuming part of producing well-designed artifacts is figuring out the content, not the act of completing the artifact itself. If this is what you think, you should actually be saying “We don’t have time to figure out what we need” or “We don’t want to think about the design now, we want the problems to sneak up on us later.” Artifacts are actually tools used to understand the problem, design an appropriate solution, and ensure clarity among stakeholders. The power of artifacts is in the trip as much as the destination.
  2. “Fred* knows how to type, he can do the documentation for us.” While it is unbelievably common to believe that anyone who has free time and a word processor can produce effective artifacts, that is most definitely not the case. It is the equivalent of saying that anyone who can use a paintbrush, can paint a Picasso. I can, in fact, use a paintbrush, but I’m challenged to paint a wall. The ability to capture information in a well scoped and clear manner is a skill which is not to be confused with ability to use Microsoft Word.
  3. “The architect will do the design and Fred* will document it.” As mentioned in #1 above, we believe an artifact is a design tool and not just a document. Producing artifacts cannot be a sidelined activity performed by a spectator – this is not news reporting. We believe an architect’s job is not to sit around thinking, but to produce designs, and that requires getting your hands dirty!

We concur that heavyweight documentation is definitely not needed (or helpful), but the logical foil is not “no documentation”. The answer is that the right number and type of artifacts should be produced in order to reduce risk and ensure the success of your endeavors.

What is needed is not heavyweight nor lightweight documentation, but rightweight documentation! Determining the right number and type of artifacts is left as an exercise to the reader, but we’d be happy to help. :)

* Apologies to Fred…

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Dan Hughes

Was a principal consultant at Systems Flow, Inc.

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