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RTRJ: Right tool, right job

February 21, 2012 mgroves 0 Comments
Tags: architecture Spring.NET IoC

One of my favorite acronyms is "RTRJ" for "Right Tool for the Right Job". At worst, it's something of a cliche, and sometimes even an excuse or blanket answer. But I think it's an important thing to keep in mind whenever you are thinking about architecture of an application. If there was a perfect framework or tool for every job, then architecture would be easy because then every developer would always be on the same page.

I came across this article on CodeProject about making architectural decisions and choosing technologies for a .NET project. While you may not agree with every choice made for that project just from reading, I think it's interesting and important to note why each decision was made. For instance, the author was looking at IoC/AOP tools for the project, and considered many popular tools like Spring.NET, LinFu, and PostSharp. Ultimately, the author determined that Spring.NET was the best choice because of its documentation, integration with NHibernate, and the fact that it also comes with dependency injection capabilities. The author also notes the downsides and risks to using Spring.NET.

I think "Right Tool for the Right Job" consists of two main concepts: understanding the job and choosing the right tools. Everyone can probably rattle off their favorite tools, but are all of those tools correct for this project?

  • Is the rest of the team more familiar with and comfortable with a different tool?
  • Will this project be cheaper or faster to finish with a certain tool?
  • What about support: is an older tool with a bigger support community better than a newer tool that doesn't have a big following yet?
  • Are the benefits of new tool going to outweigh the uphill challenge of learning curves and convincing others to adopt it?
  • Biases: even if you don't admit you have them, you have them. Figure out a good way to make your analysis objective: have others on the team do the spike and get their opinions. Try to play devil's advocate. Find someone to ask you the hard questions and find the answers.
  • Is tool X being used just because it's always been used before? There's probably a good reason for that, but don't be afraid to challenge assumptions and the status quo, even if it does end up being quo.

Above all, don't forget: shipping is a feature. You could spend eternity trying to figure out just the perfect combination of tools and architecture, but ultimately the best way to get feedback is to get building! If you find yourself putting a square peg in a round hole during your first sprint (I'm assuming you are using some sort of agile methodology), say so at your retrospective and switch to something else while you still can.


Matthew D. Groves

About the Author

Matthew D. Groves lives in Central Ohio. He works remotely, loves to code, and is a Microsoft MVP.

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