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Rohit leads the Pivotal Labs App Modernization Practice in engineering, delivery training & cross-functional enablement, tooling, scoping, selling, recruiting, marketing, blog posts, webinars and conference sessions. Rohit has led multiple enterprise engagements including ones featured in the Wall Street Journal. Rohit focuses on designing, implementing and consulting with enterprise software solutions for Fortune 500 companies on application migration and modernization.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Eight Pitfalls Of Application Modernization (m11n) when Practicing Domain Driven Design (DDD)

1. High Ceremony OKRs

An application modernization effort is necessary broad in scope. Overly constraining the goals and objectives often results in premature bias and could lead to solving the wrong problems. Driving out premature Key Results means that you are tracking and optimizing for the wrong outcomes. If you are uncertain of the goals of modernization or if this is your first time refactoring and rewriting a critical legacy system, it is best to skip this step and come back to it later. 


2. Mariana Trench Event Storming

There are multiple variants of Event Storming (ES). ES can be used for big picture, detailed system design, greenfield exploration, value stream mapping, journey mapping, event modeling etc., Beware of going too deep into existing system design with ES when modernizing a system. If the intent of ES is to uncover the underlying domains and the services it is counterproductive to look at ALL the existing constraints and hot spots in the system. Model enough to get started to understand and reveal the seams of the domain. If you go deep with Event Storming you will bias or over-correct the design of the new system with the baggage and pain of the old. 

They key to success with Event Storming is to elicit the business process i.e. how the system wants to behave and not the current hacked up process. When there is no representation from the business there is no point in doing event storming. 

3. Anemic Boris

When modeling relationships between bounded contexts it is critical to fully understand the persistence of data, flow of messages, visualization of UI and the definition of APIs. If these interactions are not fully flushed out the Boris diagram becomes anemic and this in turn reflects an anemic domain model

4. Picking Thin Slices

As you start modeling the new system design the end to end happy path of the user workflow first. Pick concrete scenarios and use cases that add value to the business.  Those that encounter the maximum pain. The idea here is to validate the new design cheaply with stickies instead of code and not get stuck in error or edge cases. If you don't maintain speed and cycle through multiple end to end steel threads you may may be prematurely restricting the solution space. 

5. Tactical Patterns - The Shit Sandwich

As you start implementing the new system and co-existing with the new there are a few smells to watch for the biggest one being the Shit Sandwich. “Shit Sandwich” - When you are stuck doing DDD on a domain that is sandwiched between upstream and downstream domains/services that cannot be touched thereby overly constraining your decomposition and leading to anemic modeling since you cannot truly decompose a thin slice. You spend all your time writing ACLs mapping data across domains. 

So the Top bun is the downstream service, the bottom bun is the upstream service, then there are two layers of cheese - which are the ACLs and then  your core domain is the burger patty in the middle - and now you have the :shit:  sandwich. Watch for this when you are called in to modernize ESBs and P2P integration layers. 



6. Over Engineering

Engineers are guilty of this all the time.
Ooooh ... we modeled the system with Event Storming as events ergo - we should implement the new system in Kotlin with Event Sourcing on Kafka and deploy to Kubernetes.
Yikes!!
Do what it is sustainable and what your average (not rockstar) software engineers can support. My colleague Shaun Anderson explains this best in The 3 Ks of the Apocalypse — Or how awesome technologies can get in the way of good solutions.


7. Pressure Cooker Stakeholder Management

When the stakeholders of the project continuously keep changing their priorities or they lose faith in the progress or if the domains are pre-decided then it is time to push back and reassert control. The top down process of Domain Driven Design is like landing the plane from 30,000 feet. You cannot skip phases and go straight to user story backlog generation with somebody else's domain model or DDD process. Don't short circuit steps in the process.  It is critical to follow the strategic and tactical patterns and land the plane with gradual descent to an organized user story backlog. 

8. Faith

The biggest way to fail with DDD when doing system design or modernization is when you lose faith  and start questioning the process. Another guaranteed failure mode is when you procrastinate and don't start the modeling activities i.e. you are stuck in analysis and paralysis phase. The only prerequisite to success is fearlessness and curiosity. You don't need to have a formal training to be a facilitator.  Start the journey, iterate and improve as you go.  

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