What do Reuse Engineers do?

Reuse engineering is an important, and arguably advanced, aspect of the Disciplined Agile framework.  The challenge is that reuse engineering requires significant discipline and organizational maturity to be successful, hence we tend to run into far more talk about reuse than action.  Having said that, many organizations have been very successful with reuse.  The following diagram overviews the internal workflow of a reuse engineering team, capturing key activities (the blue bubbles) that the team performs.  This blog posting explores what reuse engineers do in practice.

Internal workflow of a reuse engineering team

Let’s work through the primary activities performed by reuse engineers:

  1. Guide teams in reuse.  An important activity for reuse engineers is to provide guidance to delivery teams regarding what is available for reuse, how to go about accessing and applying the reusable artifacts, and educating teams in why reuse is important to both the team and to your organization.   Very often a team’s architecture owner will collaborate with the reuse engineering team to bring a reuse engineer into the team at the right time.
  2. Obtain assets.  Reuse engineers will obtain reusable assets from a variety of sources, including from the marketplace and from internal delivery teams.  Based on the various organizational roadmaps, and the needs of the delivery teams that they’re working with, the reuse engineering team will often work with delivery teams to identify and obtain the appropriate assets from the marketplace.  The goal is to find assets that fit the needs of individual teams in a way that aligns with the direction of the organization.  Furthermore, reuse engineers tend to monitor what delivery teams are doing, often by working closely with the organization’s enterprise architecture team and the architecture owners on delivery teams, to help them identify potentially reusable assets.  When a team believes it has built something that is potentially reusable by others, or when the reuse engineers believe they have done so, then the reuse engineers will work with the team to understand and harvest that asset.
  3. Publish reusable assets.  An asset is potentially reusable when it is of high quality, it is appropriately documented, one or more examples exist of how to use it, and it is findable by others.  The publishing process ensures that all of these criteria are true.  The reuse engineers will do the work to publish the asset, refactoring and documenting it as needed and harvesting any usage examples if available (and creating some when not).  After doing so, they will save the asset and its related supporting artifacts into your organization’s reuse repository, announcing the availability of the new asset after doing so. Note that reuse repositories, also called asset managers, have fallen out of favor in the past few years due to the complexity of the available products on the market and the propensity of organizations to use products like Git or Microsoft SharePoint as repositories.
  4. Configure asset for specific use.  Reuse engineers will often work with a team to help them to configure an asset for specific use.  The goal is to make it as easy as possible for others to reuse existing assets, thereby increasing the chance of rate of successful reuse within your organization.
  5. Integrate reusable assets into a solution.  Reuse engineers will often work with delivery teams to integrate a reusable asset into their solution, once again to make it as easy as possible for teams to reuse existing assets.  Interestingly, an important aspect of harvesting an asset for reuse is to help the source team to integrate the improved version of the asset back into their solution.  This helps to increase the likelihood that teams will offer up potential assets for harvesting and publishing.
  6. Evolve reusable assets.  Assets need to evolve over time to reflect changing requirements and implementation technologies.  The implication is that the owners of the assets, often the reuse engineering team, will need to evolve their assets, publish new versions, and deprecate old versions.  This is work that must be funded and supported properly.

If your organization is serious about reuse engineering then they will explicitly fund a reuse engineering team and enable them to work in the manner that we’ve described here.  For more information, you will find the article Reuse Engineering to be of value.

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