I am deeply saddened to report that my long-time business partner and friend Lawrence Wilkes has passed away after a short illness.
I first met Lawrence 30 years ago when I joined James Martin Associates (JMA) in Wimbledon. Lawrence was in pre-sales and we collaborated intermittently on tool demos and sales to my consulting customers. In the early 90s (then part of Texas Instruments) I moved into marketing as product manager and as Lawrence was marketing manager he and I forged a close partnership that would last for nearly 25 years.
When I set up the company in 1997 that was eventually to become the CBDI Forum Lawrence joined me without hesitation, and together we became well known as highly influential technology evangelists and methodologists in Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). At that time we went where other analysts and consultants couldn’t go – providing practice level guidance on the use of the rapidly emerging service technologies. Initially we guided big tech vendors like Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Sun etc and rapidly evolved to support major corporations including banks, insurance companies, oil majors, retailers etc. It’s no exaggeration to say we were flying right at the leading edge of best practice and we made up a lot of the guidance as we went. And here Lawrence’s skills as a problem solver and communicator were extraordinary, creating structure around our ideas that provided a coherent and practical framework.
Soon we were joined by others particularly John Dodd and Richard Veryard and we forged a high performing team that ran forum meetings all around the world, providing consultancy and developing education products and documenting our thinking in the monthly CBDI journal. We didn’t call it an Agile process in those days, but that’s what it was, moving incredibly rapidly, constantly delivering useful products to market and evolving the products in a continuous stream of guidance for our architect practitioner customers.
We really believed in what we were doing. Some would say we continued the JMA ethic, breaking new ground and finding that customers came with us because they adopted our belief system along with the methodology. A vital part of this was communications and Lawrence drove the delivery of the knowledge base, without which we would have been just another disorganized consulting shop. And he combined that role with problem solving, developing better methods and education delivery platforms.
After we teamed up with Everware our products evolved rapidly as we actually delivered services.
At this point and for the last few years Lawrence was highly instrumental in the architecture and development of what I believe should be viewed as our most valuable contribution to service oriented computer science – the specification portal. This capability enables the comprehensive specification of services independent of technology, and through pattern based code generation implements a platform approach to service delivery and evolution that massively improves quality and productivity. But even more important automates governance over the code that ensures ongoing architecture integrity. Now it’s true to say that the product that Lawrence and the team worked on is more than a little industrial; it’s nowhere near a mass market user experience. But customers that have used it have enthusiastically embraced it because they understand the business value it delivers – a business level specification that governs architecture and code.
This is what we should remember Lawrence for – he articulated the vision of service architecture realized through business specifications independent of design and technology, and worked on realizing the vision – delivering on the goals of “diagrams to code” in a practical manner. Lawrence was writing and speaking about that opportunity very early on and he had the persistence to see it through. While the current spec portal product is not widely used, I fully expect these ideas will not be lost; they will in time become pervasive best practice for delivery of enterprise level services.
I remember back in the early days, the marketing communications people we worked with would often get exasperated with Lawrence; they would say to me, “We’ve got deadlines to meet, can you hurry him up?” What they didn’t realize was that Lawrence was using his lateral thinking capabilities to come up with great ideas, new concepts and ways of thinking; and that takes time. And I would say, “don’t worry, he will deliver.” He always did. Over the years he demonstrated time and time again the ability to translate and communicate difficult problems into solutions; to help others deliver better solutions. He will be remembered and missed.