Community event 2015-07-01 minutes

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Report of the 2015 OIAm community event (summer edition)

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On a smouldering hot July 1st, the 7th edition of the OIAm community event was held at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Zwolle. The event itself was preceded by a workshop, in which community members involved with teaching and training focussed on discussing and sharing their experiences with the teaching of infrastructure architecture and OIAm. The following is a report compiled from the minutes taken by several community members, mainly those of Mischa Frenk.


OIAm didactics workshop (morning)

The aim of the workshop was to gain insight into the educational issues surrounding functional thinking and infrastructure architecture. Jan Schoonderbeek (Architecting.nl) introduces this part of the workshop. Learning functional thinking and modeling proves a tricky issue for both young students and experienced consultants/professionals in the field - but for different reasons. The examples that are given indicate that in some cases people have difficulties with abstract thinking, an important skill for functional design. There also seems to be a general opinion that people that perform the architect role are not always best equipped. Some professionals have grown up in IT construction (software or infrastructure) and slowly rise to the role of architect of sorts, but not always fully develop the necessary skills, others get the role of Architect in some other way that doesn’t train, or test for, the necessary skills and competences.

At Windesheim, the topic of Architecture is part of the Infrastructure Design and Security bachelor course. The importance of Architecture, requirements elicitation and functional modelling (for which OIAm is used) is part of this course's curriculum that mainly focusses on infrastructure construction, as Bram Abbekerk (Windesheim University) explained. He mentioned that his students are generally very hands on at infrastructure construction and solving related security issues. Both Bram and a student of his course (Stephan Vorstenberg) related on the relative shortcomings and successes when teaching architecture, functional thinking and the OIAm method to (relatively inexperienced) infrastructure students. OIAm’s toughest challenges, next to functional thinking itself, were listed as a lack of written materials and examples, and the on-line repository OIAr not being complete and still somewhat in flux. Where OIAm offers it’s strongest benefits are in the area of requirements elicitation, and as a modelling method that allows for comprehensive models even when detailed technical knowledge of infrastructure products is not (yet) present in the student.

Hans van Drunen (Atos) then recounted on the Infrastructure architecture master class he developed and teaches at Atos, which contains an OIAm module taught by Jan Schoonderbeek. After explaining the build-up of the master class program, he shares insights he gained. A lot of architects are very knowledgeable about the current techniques and services that deliver state of the art IT. On the other hand he also sees architects having difficulties with functional thinking. Changing this sometimes proves to be challenging due to a lack of willingness to leave their comfort zone on the constructional side of IT that people have build up over the years. In discussion, there seem to be a host of underlying issues: level of knowledge may be inadequate (insufficient knowledge of infrastructure, insufficient knowledge of modeling), not enough (functional) architecture examples available, quality of training and training materials and outdated and incomplete sources. Issues to be solved are about the (possibility of and) ability to learn the role of an architect, how to properly separate the differences between architects and designers/engineers and adjust the didactic curriculum and materials accordingly.

During the workshop, the discussion often veered from education towards the perception of architecture by the stakeholders involved, as well as (to a lesser extent) the actual meaning and content of the field of Architecture. By and large, the participants agreed that architecture is about conveying context, envisioning and visualizing the essence of the functional needs and translating these into solutions. But on the topic of "selling" architecture to "the business", the opinions and ideas were more widespread.

The following suggestion were made to improve on these observations: Elaborate on the architecture body of knowledge; why the need for architecture, what defines the process, what skills (eCF) and soft skills are required. How to go from analysis to a functional design and then transforming it to a solution design (essence vs solution), generalisation versus specialization, function-construction thinking, taxonomy and hierarchy, more on abstract thinking, educational profiles to support career paths. And, of course it also comes down to "learning by doing". Learning how to ride a bike works best when under supervision. Examples include University of Amsterdam and the municipality Bergen op Zoom.

In the wrap-up of the workshop, Jan Schoonderbeek called for cooperation between those that develop educational programs, the sharing of materials (such as use cases and examples), and an investigation into the didactic requirements and prerequisites for OIAm training. The representatives of Hogeschool Windesheim/Utrecht/Amsterdam are going to take up this latter investigation.

Community event (afternoon)

During the afternoon workshop Daniël Jumelet (it2fit) together with Robert Kuijvenhoven (Centric) presented a small video tutorial they developed to help others better understand OIAm modeling. The initiative, and the video itself, was well received, but Robert and Daniël indicated there is a need to develop more and better scripts, so more tutorials can be created. Please contact Daniël Jumelet if you would like to contribute. Daniël also updated the status of his new book on OIAm, slated for November 2015 (in Dutch; English version will follow shortly after). Although he is still in the process of writing it, people are welcomed to review. Those present at the event were given an early opportunity to do so, by means of a handout of chapter 3.

Next, Bram Abbekerk introduced the Windesheim bachelor course Infrastructure Design and Security, supported by Stephan Vorstenberg and David Maas, both students of the IDS course. The students presented their project and explained their approach, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of using OIAm as they perceived them. Bram also reminded the audience that Windesheim has student teams available to tackle infrastructure projects in their own organizations.

Then Jan Schoonderbeek gave a presentation that summarized the experiences of Hans van Drunen and himself when teaching OIAm to experienced professionals, be they for upskilling or retraining. This was in part a recap of the talk that Hans van Drunen had at the workshop. During discussion Daniël Jumelet showed and explained about the practice of NXP, briefly presenting their service landscape and underlying definitions and descriptions of ABB's and SBB's. Lively discussion ensued, confirming and somewhat expounding on the conclusions of the morning.

The final presentation of the afternoon was also by Jan Schoonderbeek, who presented the current status of OIAm and the library content of the new online repository (OIAr). This consisted of a brief recap of the history of OIAr, techniques used, and current state of affairs. There is still some work left to put the finishing touches on the library contents of the OIAr. Furthermore, it needs vetting. For this there is a need for a (renewal of the OIAr) review board. To start, there is a call for volunteers that will establish the process for this. The following attendants volunteered to assist Jan Schoonderbeek and Daniël Jumelet with this: Antoon Wuijster (Ordina), Bert Kroek (ArchiCoach), Roelof Boersma (ABN AMRO), Bram Abbekerk (Windesheim) and Mischa Frenk (Defensie).

Jan also presented a new idea: a cookbook approach to OIAm. This approach should offer users of OIAm an easy start to gain experience using the OIAm method. To this end, the cookbook should offer generic problems and contexts, and corresponding OIAm solutions. The solutions would offer a modicum of detail, considerations and motivations, as well as multiple solutions if warranted by differing contexts. The solutions presented then can serve as an outline for actual solutions by users of the OIAr.

After a short closing address by Bram Abbekerk of Windesheim University, the day was concluded with drinks and networking opportunities, sponsored by it2fit and Architecting.nl. A sizeable part of the attendants chose to join, and many discussions were had, and acquaintances made or renewed. The last attendees left the premises only around 18:00.

In conclusion

As always, we're open to compliments, critique or recommendations, either here on LinkedIn or at the community mail address. The presentations can be downloaded from this site:

We wish to thank Windesheim University for hosting the event, the presenters and moderators for their contributions, but most of all the attendants of the workshop and the community event for their participation.