In the course of my industrial career I have gradually become interested in the role that System Architecture may play in defining new or improving existing systems (products & services). During most of my working life, my daily activities have somehow dealt with the domain of transport physics (fluids, mass, heat), in which I started as a specialist in industrial R&D environments after finishing my Ph.D. In industrial applications this often means the understanding and optimization of the thermal behavior of complex devices.
During 2001-2005, my work at Philips Research (NatLab) at the Software Architecture Group (led by Jaap van der Heijden) was a first, different experience, in which I became introduced to concepts and methods used in architecting systems and software. I also met and got inspired by Gerrit Muller (the CAFCR approach) there for the first time.
Subsequently my family and I moved to Sweden for a ten year's stay and work at ABB (topped up with two years of Germany), returning to the familiar domain of heat and mass transfer. At ABB I got involved with the cooling design of large power transformers. These complex devices are an important part of a power transmission network.
Starting at Corporate Research on power transformer cooling modeling approaches, I gradually entered the ABB's business unit and finally became part of the global architecture team of ABB's Medium & Large Power Transformer product group. There I was globally responsible for the thermal architecture as an integral part of its TrafoStar architecture platform.
During that journey I discovered that the system architecture concepts I was introduced to during my time at Philips were quite helpful to structure my thoughts when managing my work at ABB. The Philips experience also helped in defining work strategies when helping out with strategic design reviews and discussing with electrical designers on their design requirements. In the latter cases, these requirements had to be balanced with many others (insulation, mechanics, losses etc.) often already in the early and short tender design stage. Additionally, the System Architecture concepts also helped to think about my role as part of the architecture team in an organization where the architect role was not formally defined nor recognized, and where the word "architecture" was often related only to the software domain. In fact, out of the roles that I fulfilled at ABB (project leader, specialist, competence coordinator, and architect) I enjoyed the "invisible" latter the most, as it helped me to structure my communication. To me, architecture is as much about communication (in the sense of communicating with the right groups of people on the right abstraction level) and human organization structure (i.e. the roles that are needed in an organisation for proper information transfer) as it is about eliciting the shape, function and interfaces of components in a system.
Returning from Sweden to the northern part of the Netherlands, I came to realize that in that area there exists a large number of small, often specialized enterprises on a limited set of application domains. System Architecture is recognized by the large companies as important, but should it not be equally important for small businesses as well? Could this approach help to substantially increase their innovation potential?
In this blog I present a number of discussion articles (white papers etc.) that address a number of key issues in innovation of (small) businesses in the technical domain. I hope it inspires others working in the system architecture domain and helps to enables a form of cooperation in further developing this field. Please contact me (see menu at the right or bottom) if you feel that there may be a basis for discussion here!