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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Accidental Interoperability

I've been spending a great deal of time on the implementation side, which doesn't let me say much here.  However, I had a recent experience where I saw a feature one team was demonstrating in which I could actually integrate one of my interop components to supply additional functionality.

Quite simply, when you build interop components right, this sort of accidental interop shows up all the time.  It's really nice when it does too, because you can create a lot of value through it with very little engineering investment.

Lego could have spent less time on their very simple building block, but because of the attention they spent, there are SO many more ways to connect those blocks, some of them I am certain were never originally intended.

Getting into that component based mind-set can that enables accidental interop is sometimes quite challenging.  All too often we focus on very specific problems and fail to consider how what we are building can be done in a more general way.  When we get that focused, it often enables us to deliver sooner, because we are focused on the singular use case, and can take short cuts to optimize for our use case.  At the same time, that hyper-focus prevents us from looking at slightly more general solutions that might have broader use.

All too often I've been told those more generalized solutions are "Scope expansions", because they don't fit the use case, and the benefits of generalization aren't immediately experienced for the specific use can I'm asked to solve for. Yet my own experience tells me that the value I get out of more general solutions is well worth the additional engineering attention.  It may not help THIS use case, but when I can apply the same solution to the next use case that comes along, then I've got a clear win.  Remember Avian flu?  That threat turned out to be a bust yet CDC spent a good bit of money on a solution for that use case.  Could they use any of it for Swine flu?  Yeah, you really don't want to know the answer to that.