Browse Definitions :
Definition

Conway's law

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Conway’s law is an observation that the design of any system is significantly affected by the communications structure of the organization that develops it. The law is commonly associated with software development but is considered applicable to systems and organizations of all types.

Melvin Conway, a computer scientist and programmer, developed his theory in 1967 as the basis for a paper, "How do committees invent?" that he was submitting to the Harvard Business Review. Here's the original formation: "Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure."

HBR rejected the paper on the grounds that Conway had not proved his thesis; the paper was published in April 1968 in Datamation, the leading IT magazine of the time. Fred Brooks cited the observation in his article, "The Mythical Man-Month" and referred to it as Conway's law.

The Harvard Business School subsequently conducted a study, "Exploring the Duality between Product and Organizational Architectures," to attempt to prove Conway's thesis. Researchers compared the codebases of multiple applications of the same type that had been created by loosely-coupled open source development teams and tightly-coupled teams. They found that the tightly-coupled teams tended to develop tightly-coupled, monolithic codebases while the loosely-coupled open source teams tended to create more modular, decomposed codebases. It has been observed, similarly, that if multiple teams are working on program modules and inter-team communication is poor, the interfaces of the program will reflect that fact.

Conway's law is often mentioned in reference to the DevOps trend, which is based on effective communication and collaboration among development and operations teams.

See Dan Slimmon's presentation, Conway's Law: The Skeleton of DevOps:

This was last updated in October 2016

Continue Reading About Conway's law

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • risk management

    Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing and controlling threats to an organization's capital and earnings.

  • compliance as a service (CaaS)

    Compliance as a Service (CaaS) is a cloud service service level agreement (SLA) that specified how a managed service provider (...

  • data protection impact assessment (DPIA)

    A data protection impact assessment (DPIA) is a process designed to help organizations determine how data processing systems, ...

SearchSecurity

  • cybersecurity insurance (cybersecurity liability insurance)

    Cybersecurity insurance, also called cyber liability insurance or cyber insurance, is a contract that an entity can purchase to ...

  • phishing

    Phishing is a form of fraud in which an attacker masquerades as a reputable entity or person in email or other communication ...

  • cybercrime

    Cybercrime is any criminal activity that involves a computer, networked device or a network.

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • disaster recovery plan (DRP)

    A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a documented, structured approach that describes how an organization can quickly resume work ...

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • disaster recovery team

    A disaster recovery team is a group of individuals focused on planning, implementing, maintaining, auditing and testing an ...

SearchStorage

  • NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF)

    NVMe over Fabrics, also known as NVMe-oF and non-volatile memory express over fabrics, is a protocol specification designed to ...

  • logical unit number (LUN)

    A logical unit number (LUN) is a unique identifier for designating an individual or collection of physical or virtual storage ...

  • CIFS (Common Internet File System)

    CIFS (Common Internet File System) is a protocol that gained popularity around the year 2000, as vendors worked to establish an ...

Close