Prefer Evolvable over Predictable

.. .because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Unknown unknowns are the nemesis of software systems. Many projects start with a list of known unknowns: things developers know they must learn about the domain and technology. However, projects also fall victim to unknown unknowns: things no one knew were going to crop up yet have appeared unexpectedly. This is why all Big Design Up Front software efforts suffer — architects cannot design for unknown unknowns.

All architectures become iterative because of unknown unknowns; agile just

recognizes this and does it sooner.

Mark Richards

While no architecture can survive the unknown, we know that dynamic equilibrium renders predictability useless in software. Instead, we prefer to build evolvability into software: if projects can easily incorporate changes, architects don’t need a crystal ball. Architecture is not a solely upfront activity — projects constantly change in both explicit and unexpected ways throughout their life. One technique commonly used by developers to insulate themselves from change is to use an anticorruption layer.

 
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