By Scott Andersen
A question of ethics

There are of course a million ways to look at the word ethics. But when someone steps over the line there is in the end only one reaction – you can’t do that.

If for a moment we consider that Software Architects are bound by the ethics of the country they are in and the industry they are a part of we could stop there. Software Architects aren’t in the end responsible for or greater than the society they are in.

When you consider though that software architects do often build systems that are life altering is there in fact greater responsibility?

A series of posts on LinkedIn discussed the concept of how long is a software architect responsible for the solution they build.

In the end the original post spawned a second post. The link to the second post is here. The end result was extremely mixed but extremely unified. Mixed in that there was no “this long” answer that resulted in an ethical boundary. You build a solution and you are responsible for that solution for 1000 days. Instead the conversations were around the concept of change.

The ethics of change become an interesting challenge. If you are in the end the creator of a solution (or the architect of a solution) and then are the architect of the first upgrade based on the opinions I have gathered you remain responsible for a solution. In fact you remain responsible until somebody else alters, modifies or replaces your solution.

In some industries there are solutions that have 30 year lifecycles. There are solutions in the new Internet of things that will have two parts (the remote sensor) and the unifying software. The unifying software solution may never change. In effect you are building something you are responsible for the rest of your life.

Continuing that discussion is intriguing. When does a solution pass beyond the fingers of the architect? If no one ever updates the architecture (but the solution is updated) is the original architect still responsible?

It is an interesting question. Frankly it is one that has been bugging me for years but now it is in the open I think it actually bothers me more.

  1. People don’t always update architectures.
  2. When I am no longer responsible for solutions I built in the 1990’s?

There has to be a statute of limitations…


IASA Fellow