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Conway's Law

20 June 2024

In 2022, I briefly touched on Conway’s Law, a concept that highlights how an organization’s structure influences its product designs.

Microsoft Org Chart Microsoft’s Org Chart, source: Bonkers World

Bonkers World humorously illustrates this phenomenon through Microsoft’s organizational structure, revealing some key insights:

1. Organizational Silos

The image shows Microsoft’s divisions as separate hierarchical structures, emphasizing the isolation of departments. These silos are depicted as distinct, self-contained units with minimal interaction.

2. Internal Competition

The hands holding guns pointed at each other symbolize the competitive nature between these departments. This internal rivalry reflects how different parts of the organization might not collaborate effectively, leading to conflicts and inefficiencies.

Specific to Microsoft we can see:

3. Impact on Software Design

Conway’s Law suggests that the structure of the organization is mirrored in its software design. The image implies that Microsoft’s software might suffer from fragmentation and poor integration due to the lack of cooperation among its teams. For instance, syncing issues between Teams and Outlook in Office 365 illustrate this problem.

4. Distinct Product Lines

The resulting software design leads to distinct product lines with little integration. Each department develops its own products or features independently, reflecting the competitive and siloed nature of the organization.

Bonkers World’s illustration of Microsoft’s organizational structure humorously yet poignantly highlights Conway’s Law in action. The depiction of silos, internal competition, and fragmented software design underscores the significant impact organizational structure has on product development and integration. Understanding these dynamics can help organizations strive for better collaboration and more cohesive products.