What IT would learn of Construction industry

It continue surprise me how much the construction industry and IT have in common. Let’s take 5 seconds to the picture in the header.

The one to left show the components (in a city) while the model to the right show a strategy (in a IT enterprise). Could they e interchange and still have the same relevance? Seeing the buildings in the square as applications in a part of a enterprise landscape.

The visual expression of architecture between the industries is quite different (there is no obvious reason but culture and history), but some building stones that design in both construction and IT, is closely related in content. Let me show it in a number of concerned areas. The following points is sorted intentionally.

Enterprise

The strategic level. In an enterprise landscape, dozens of applications is easy to compare to dozens of buildings in a city plan. As in cities, the enterprise is divided into units. Somewhere, there are borders. Many applications do share or have several interaction points to the city as in IT landscape, and not only need to co-exist. But also for re-use. A construction strategy in one place can and should be re-used in another place. It’s about patterns and styles on different levels (architecturally and locally, i.e. a building or application).

Roads

As for the city, there are inter-connections between applications. There is co-existens between applications as well as buildings, where roads are used to access them. Network zones and virtualized clusters or the cloud is clearly domains of roads, where you pass cities or containers or even mega blocks of IT applications. Or the opposite, clearly defined borders where there is no allowed interactions. Some applications is more restrictive to what and who access, other more open. As Intranet to a plaza or market-place. Or as a prison as in security defense firewall sandboxes.

Water, electricity and drainage

Moving to a domain where we clearly have two levels of interactions. Local capabilities that are meant to facilitate selected buildings, such as information for selected IT applications. Pipes coming in- and out from buildings, they need to stand for ages but still be open for modification during changes in the building(s). Enabling of information can be materialized as connectionstrings, SSH connections,web based API communication or letter-based (as in AMTQ, WebSockets MQTT or so). But you oviously need also consider the city level of water, electricity and drainage. Ensure that the capacity meet the need of sum of all local facilities. From IT perspective, why not mention whole integration frameworks as Biztalk, WebSphere or MicroGen or ESB and network transportation.

Facilities

The smallest whole unit of this article: a building, or application. Inside a building you love to know that there are all from restaurants, parking places for cars to toilets, depending on the size and context of it. But you might also be aware of your application is aware of deliver radio signals, is a big data container, reporting platform, host hundreds of thousends micro sensors to control or read data from. As well as is specialized on connected QR & barcode scanners or contain components as computing grid or advanced financial algorithms delivered as a service for other applications or users.

Security

In this article, we started at a holistic and strategic view in enterprise and city level. Once done, we hovered over some more tactical samples. Next step is naturally the interdisciplinary parts. The baseline that both strategical and tactical share, to provide or ensure capability, robustness, availability and scalability. Frameworks and methods to ensure that decision makers provide resources in a structured way.

  • How secure is the roads around the city plan?
  • How reliable are network connectivity between servers, clients, wifi or cabled.
  • Is walkers safe because of the surrounding constructions?
  • Can users interact with application in a way that accidentally or inaccidentally make damage?
  • What about fireman and ambulance, can they easily goes out for help?
  • Is there even need to judge emergency transports? (which is obviously a part of a plan to define if “not affected”).
  • Once virus or malware enter the network or a backup need to be recovered, how quick can concerned security experts act and recover? Restore a backup, remove a virus or disconnect a computer that send inappropriate network activity.
  • Is the concrete which buildings and city built on safe from fire? Can thief’s easily enter and monitor areas unseen?
  • Does a particular building have considerable security concerns (jail, bank, social department) that need additional activities to be involved to the overall plan?

Similar to constructions to city and buildings in compare to IT in an enterprise as well as IT as per application. Security is explicitly verified on local concern (particular application), but considered in a wider scope (architecture) and assessed towards the whole enterprise. Why not through IT governance.

Quality attributes – Not just for IT, right?

Going from explained areas into some a pick of specific analogies.

  • Usage – How many use it? Who are the visitors and who are the customers?
  • Agreements and contractors – Who use it, why? for how long? and to which terms.
  • Accessibility – How accessible is the facility, when and how?
  • Agile, changeability – Add layer(s) of functional component,
  • Scalability – scale out (horizontally) or scale up (vertically)
  • Decommission – How can this thing be replaced or taken down
  • Business valuation – What value does this provide in compare to another
  • ..what would you add here?

Sum up

Design skills behind Construction and design skills behind IT may do have a lot in common. Let me shoot a non-educated but intuitive guess: IT is more skilled in the process and modelling than any construction. This because of much more intensive engagement between business and technology, and the speed of change that are a key factor within information technology. need of processes is apparent in more layers of the whole. Therefore Construction can find value in IT to learn about transformation, agility and speed of change.

Other way around IT would benefit by learn from construction, that has been around for centuries. Well known to million and billion dollar sized projects. They now how to work efficient and ensure delivery that works. Not at least, they may know how to define roles and hire cost efficient manpower that much higher percentage of the population may fit into, without require years of university just to step-in.

This article is based on conceptual ideas and comparison. And enable a discussion where IT very need to increase and strengthen a layer of strategy between the work orders and the business.