A couple of years ago (at QCon London) several talks name dropped the phenomenon where the software architecture evolves to mirror the office layout but I can't remember the name.

I believe this phenomenon to be an influential factor in how solutions evolve and as an architect I don't want to make solutions harder to realise. We are about to switch to a new location which is basically a long corridor with enough space to fit 3-5 people across. This has dangers as most teams will be adjacent to at most 2 other teams and I seek other successful models.

  • Your furniture layout will have no effect on the software architecture. Architectural changes to software come about due to the departmentalization of a company, not the office's floor plan. Sep 12, 2016 at 18:18
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    I, too, have heard of this effect. Physical location impacts who talks to whom, how often. Some offices purposely reorganize location to encourage parts of the company to communicate. But I think you're thinking of Conway's Law. Sep 12, 2016 at 18:22
  • I remember an interesting anecdote from my Knowledge Management and Information Systems course at the university, about the topic of Tacit Knowledge (i.e. knowledge that isn't written down and can't be formally communicated). Some researchers looked at performance figures in a company, and found a strange pattern: the employees with the lowest salaries, that were originally perceived as the lowest performers, were then ones that got promoted the fastest. At first, they couldn't figure this out, but then they noticed a pattern: they would all sit in the same office. They still couldn't … Sep 12, 2016 at 20:55
  • … explain why that happened, though. Until they actually visited the department in question and noticed the following: the "low guys" had always been given what the rest of the team perceived as the "worst office", the one directly next to the toilet. However, everybody goes to the toilet several times a day, so several times a day, 365 days a year, the "new guy" would have the opportunity of a quick chat with every team member, picking up so much experience and tacit knowledge that they quickly became one of the most valuable employees, and then were promoted, when the next lowest … Sep 12, 2016 at 20:58
  • … performer was put in that office … and the cycle repeats. That's why fridges, water coolers, kitchens and break rooms should be part of every office. Sep 12, 2016 at 20:59

1 Answer 1


What you are describing sounds similar to Conway's Law, but it doesn't refer to the physical layout of the office, but rather the organizational structure of the team(s) that are building the software:

organizations which design systems ... are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations

— M. Conway

As a software architect, this is telling you to consider the number of teams that you have working on the software and how that relates to the modules or components that are part of the system. How your organization your departments and teams will impact the architecture and design of the system. Your organizational structure may impact how you choose to lay out your office, though.


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