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Being Smart by Ivar Jacobson

December 8, 2004

Being Smart
After three intensive days in China I make a summary. We have had numerous interviews both the old-fashioned way – meeting journalists – and through on-line chatting. It was truly amazing but the chat had more 2000 participants! I gave a keynote at a Rational partner seminar, and I was invited to meet several of Rational’s partners. We were very well taken care of, in particular we were taken to JiNan (a one hour flight south of Beijing) to give a seminar to a leading software house and outsourcing company. As a bonus, we got a nice guided tour in the old city now being preserved for the future.

Since my consulting company Ivar Jacobson Consulting now is setting up an office in Beijing we got a lot of attention from the Chinese software industry. We are already discussing interesting partnerships with several companies, the constraint is our time. Such partnerships will also involve Jaczone since we view WayPointer as absolutely essential to succeed with UP (or RUP) implementations.

This was a very nice trip, I am very grateful for the help we got from our old Rational friends, in particular to Steve Chen (general manager for the IBM Rational brand). We will soon be back and start growing our presence in China. China is an unbelievable opportunity for us. However to be successful we need to be smart.

- o -

Being smart is thinking for yourself and taking your knowledge and putting it into context and thereby delivering business value. It is not about slavishly following a set of rigid principles, or for that matter a rigid process. However, totally rejecting proven principles and well-defined processes and instead basing your work on nothing but whatever happens to cross your mind when you start to work is of course extremely non-smart.

Being smart is about making the right trade-offs to make sure that you get the results you are after in the most cost-efficient way. This is often not the same as what might be perceived as the quickest. For example if you are creating a suite of applications it is important to have a well designed architecture that can allow the suite of applications to grow and evolve. Building this architectural foundation will not pay off until perhaps the second or third application of the suite is built. Also, making the right trade-offs is often not the same as doing it exactly by the book. New problems and new technologies sometimes call for creative thinking. This takes an open-minded attitude and an unassuming culture. The kind of self-righteousness that sometimes is displayed by technically gifted engineers is a direct contradiction to this. Having predefined conceptions about how things should be done (like use light tools, or modelling is not helpful) is simply a very conservative mind-set that predefines the notion that tools are not helpful and will never be helpful either. Truth is that no tool can do all of the job, or even make all parts of the job easier. But then, most proven tools can offer value in some part of the process. Smart people recognize this and make a conscious decision on whether the tool should be used or not based on cost-benefit in the actual case, not based on some preconceived notion of whether such and such tools are useful or not. When I do work around the house and have a traditional screw-driver with me and have two screws to screw-out I will do with the screw-driver. If there are 100 screws to deal with, well then I go get a power screw-driver. Different problems require different solutions.

Being smart means also to understand your role in the organization you are part of, and making sure that you as best you can contribute to the aggregate value delivered by your organization. Sometimes this means that you must blow the whistle on “bad practices” or break a few “rules”. For the most part, however, it means to cooperate with your team members in an agreed upon way. In a commercial software development environment this typically means that it is smart to accept and use common terminology, commercial tools, and a defined process, even if these not necessarily are 100% aligned with your personal preferences.

As you have understood by know I believe that to be smart you must know many things and you must know how these things correlate to each other and how they work in real-life situations. So to be smart you need knowledge and experience.

Thus the question is then, can one get access to this knowledge and experience some other way than learning the hard way? I think so. A prerequisite to this is of course that you first find ways to describe and formalize such knowledge and experience. UP is just that, an attempt to capture and systemize knowledge and experience. There is however a problem with the form here. UP and RUP (for that matter) are just static texts. This sometimes makes people perceive them as “all or nothing propositions”. Even if there are tools to customize the static presentation of RUP very few have the luxury to do upfront process customization before commencing on the real project. Also, this is a very non-agile approach to process customization as the description still is static and can’t adapt. The way is of course to capture experience in the form of an active process. I.e., Active process makes it possible to access and assimilate more information allowing you to make smarter decisions. This is due to that an active process is sensitive to your defined goals, your personal preferences, and your responsibilities, and of course the context of your organization and the system under development. And, as you all know, this is just one of the advantages of an active process.

And finally, SMART people think.  

Active Process by Ivar Jacobson

October 30, 2004

Shenzhen is in China about a one hour drive from Hong Kong. It takes more time to get there though since you have to go through immigrations and customs. Yesterday I gave a one day seminar for a telecom company. Before my seminar, one of my colleagues in Ivar Jacobson Consulting had given a week of training in software architecture. Our approach to software architecture is a major improvement to the one in RUP: it is simpler, more systematic, broader and better prepared for the future (such as aspect-orientation). Thus the training was very well received.

In Shenzhen people can have fun. This time we went to a night club area. In Minneapolis we had a hard time to find any place to go to. This time there were almost too many night clubs, everywhere there were night clubs. We were four persons including my female host, and we went to the largest night club I have ever seen. It had everything and it was very civilized: big bar, show after show with performances by famous persons, disco. We had a good time watching the shows and talking. We talked about the future of software development and about life in China and in the Western world. I also discussed what will follow further down in this postcard. It was a very nice night in company of very nice friends.

- o -

I have some interesting quotes for you:

"Imagine a software development project where everything works well together -- the tools, the teams, the platforms, and the processes. You no longer have to imagine." This quote is from the marketing of the new IBM software development platform.

Also consider this one: "With Visual Studio [2005] Team System, process is not just documentation. It also manifests itself as actual tool behavior changes. When you chose the process at project inception, you are also choosing the workflow and work products, which then drive how the system behaves."

These quotes are interesting as they show that the major vendors now are beginning to see the necessity of integrating tools and process. I also like them because I discussed these concepts 10 years ago.

- o -

Back in 1995, I wrote a series of papers about the software engineering process (SEP) and its support environment (SEPSE)*, the vision then was similar in many ways to the vision that Microsoft and IBM is talking about now. To use a bit more modern terminology, let's call it "development platform" instead of SEPSE from now on.

Such a development platform should cover of all the tools required to support a software development process. The tools should be integrated in the sense that they work together to achieve a common overall goal - to build software according to a process - and communicate with each other as necessary. And, there are many tools that must be included, e.g., tools for capturing requirements, modeling, coding, debugging, testing, change/bug tracking, version control, and what have you.

Anyway, a key feature of such a development platform that I discussed is the capability to support a process, including workflow support and modeling support. Quoting: "The SEP enactment tool represents a unique feature as it coordinates the right set of collaborating modeling tools and artifacts for any given task, i.e., it drives the integrated environment for the user."

Now, ten years later, and with ten more years of experience my thinking has matured. Today I am not talking about a "SEP enactment tool" today I talk about Active Process.

There is a huge difference here and I believe that eventually Microsoft and IBM will realize this too and that they need to move beyond what they currently are promoting as process features in their (upcoming) software development platforms.

The difference is that a process enactment tool only provides guidance on the macro level in that it will control which activities that can be carried out by a certain person (given her assigned roles), when the activities can be carried out, e.g., checking that required input models and documents are available and so on. This kind of control is typically based on that users enter meta-data into the system that describes the state of models. An example of such meta-data is the level of stability; a model could be classified as preliminary, ready for review, or approved. This will however, not help you with the real work such as specifying clear requirements, creating good models, writing good code and so.

An Active Process covers all of this but goes beyond it in three major ways. An active process should:

  • Provide advice that is specific to the system under construction as opposed to just feeding generic descriptions and help texts. This means that the active process must have access to and be able to reason about the content of deliverables and intermediate results of the software development process, not only meta-data entered by users.
  • Provide advice just-in-time when needed and in an unobtrusive fashion. The developer should never be stopped or hindered by the active process. The choice should be with the individual at all times.
  • Be self-configuring to become as agile as possible, but no more agile than that. I.e., it should be self-configuring based on the characteristics of the organization (distributed, outsourcing, etc.) and characteristics of the system to be developed (size, criticality, etc.).

Even if IBM and Microsoft are only starting their journey as I started it 10 years ago it is still noteworthy that these companies now are starting to see process and tool support for process as an integral part of their environments. Going forward I think we will see more of this and other vendors will need to follow suit as their offerings will be considered incomplete else wise.

As you may know, Jaczone has been developed and evolved the Active Process concept over the last five years. What we have learned is that this is quite a challenge to get right; however we have come pretty far down the road. And this challenge is what makes it fun! 

Complexity and Unified Process by Ivar Jacobson

September 30, 2004 

Minneapolis was the very first city on the US main land that I visited. In 1981 a delegation from Ericsson went here to evaluate some technology from Sperry-Univac. I don’t remember more than that I got very bad flu on the flight over, and that I stayed in bed for most of my visit. Well, not entirely, because one evening our host took us out to a dancing-place. For a couple of hours my flu was gone, and I had fun.

This time I came to Minneapolis to meet a customer that is deploying UP broadly. I was also invited to speak at the Rational User Group in the Twin Cities. This was a nice event with quite a large number of people. After my presentation, some people took me out for dinner. During the dinner I told them about my dancing experience 23 years ago. I asked: “How is it today, do you still have good dancing places?” “Sure, let’s show you.”

Thus we left the restaurant, and spent the next hour walking from place to place to check out the dancing scene. Place after place was either closed or there was a big guy in front of the entrance, saying: “You are not going to like it!” We were not young enough.

However, eventually we found a place. The dancing hadn’t started yet, so we watched a show with pretty girls. A tall, big woman with a mike came up to us and interviewed us. At the end she asked “Are you all straight? Or, do you want to try something new?” We were at a gay bar. The pretty girls were boys. The only place open for dancing was a gay bar. Well, we didn’t feel uncomfortable. People had fun, and everyone respected each other so we enjoyed the music and the drinks. However, it is no overstatement that we didn’t dance much.

- o -

In my latest postcard from Boston, I explained why I think agile methods have become popular. It has happened because we didn’t do a good job with UP (or other defined processes) and tools. This created discontent and we got agile methods -- or populistic methods. Agile methods don’t provide any defined knowledge. Instead they rely on "tacit knowledge". You can do it with whatever knowledge you have. This was of course also very popular.

However, the basis for this discontent will soon be gone. It is just a question of time, at the most two years, before we will have substantially better tools from leading tool vendors, and they will be better integrated. On top of them we will get intelligent tools (WayPointer is such a tool) that remove a lot of the no-brain work that programmers spend their time on today. These tools will make it impossible for ‘tacit knowledge’-based methods (read agile methods) to compete in terms of agility. They will be even less competitive when it comes to quality in measures such as productivity, quality, time-to-market. Quality includes good architecture and design.

Moreover, the complexity of the UP will be eliminated through these intelligent tools. Let me take you through this in smaller steps:

  • Why is UP complex today?
    One reason is that UP is a rich knowledgebase. This knowledgebase defines a set of best practices, and their interrelation. The goal is to have all the best practices that a team may need available easily.
  • What is the problem with this knowledgebase?
    The problem is that it can be overwhelming. This was never a surprise to me. I have known for many years that this is how people perceive the UP. I have been crystal clear for all these years that the only way to really implement UP is through substantial training and mentoring. My assumption was that only a small fraction of the software developers would be able to adopt UP properly. I have been clear when talking to people interested in UP that if they are NOT willing to do these investments, they shouldn’t even bother to think about UP.

Another problem is that even if UP is rich it is not rich enough. This may sound as a paradox, but it is not. I believe that one of the major problems with UP is that it is generic. Since UP is a book, it can’t be specific to a particular application or domain. Special cases or exceptions have to be treated very superficially. Otherwise no one would read it. This means that the process is explained generically and that examples and such probably come from a problem space of no interest to a particular reader. Examples and advice must be particular and context sensitive to be useful. However, this problem can also be solved.

  • Why did we then develop this rich knowledgebase?
    The goal has all the time been to achieve agility + more. My belief is that the more people know about software best practices, the more agile they will be able to work. However, I also wanted more as I will tell in a minute.
  • How can we help people adopt and apply this rich knowledgebase easily?
    Through a completely new class of tools, based on intelligent agents, the knowledgebase in UP can be served in very small chunks. The minimum knowledge needed in a particular detailed context will be served. Not only so, it is presented in context of the actual system that the user works with, instead of generically. The rules in UP may trigger and defects may be found, reuse may be suggested, next steps proposed, solutions carried out. The tools will serve as a motor for each individual and for the team as a whole. WayPointer is for the time being the only such tool. With such tools, the programmer can use his or her time to what is creative instead of doing "no-brain work". Today 80% of the programmer’s time is spent on doing no-brain work. This number is based on projects using agile-like (or code centric) methods. With WayPointer this time is reduced dramatically.

We all want agility. The goal is the same for all of us. However we have different ways of getting there. The biggest difference (and maybe the only really important reason) is that agile methods assume tacit knowledge, whereas UP assumes explicit (defined) knowledge served through intelligent tools to make the software process active.

Why is explicit knowledge so important?
Moreover, I strongly believe that good software is developed by people being smart, and that you can only be smart by having critical knowledge – and of course having this knowledge turned into experience and skills. In our world the critical knowledge is on best practices in software development. This requires explicit knowledge available to the whole team; tacit, unstructured knowledge which only is in the heads of individuals is not sufficient. This is why UP serves a very important role; it includes much of the critical knowledge you need and intelligent tools can serve this knowledge when you need it.

I believe that it is not enough to be agile. The term agile doesn’t imply anything about whether the software is good or not. I have always worked to get good software (good in terms of all measures including good architecture, good test cases, good interfaces, good components, etc.). Furthermore, it has all the time been my belief that if you know how to make good software, you can always figure out how to make it fast or agile. This is what we have been doing with UP + intelligent tools. Thus instead of talking about being agile or about agile methods, I would rather talk about being smart and smart methods. Smart means agile, but also much more. It means all the things we need to get good software. UP with intelligent tools helps you to become smart.

Next year, the world will be looking for a new buzzword. Maybe I should launch the term Smart Methods. Maybe I should give a keynote with the subject: "Beyond Agile: Smart". Trust that Smart Methods are building on top of defined knowledge with smart agents.

What do you think?  

Beyond Agile by Ivar Jacobson

September 25, 2004

Coming back after many years to a place where you previously have lived is a special feeling. I spent a year at MIT 1983-84 as a visiting scientist. I was awarded a grant from the Marcus Wallenberg Foundation in Sweden to study abroad for one year, and I spent this year with my whole family in Boston. This was one of my most important years from a career point of view. I learnt to know a lot of people, some of them were professors at MIT. They were important references for me when I started my company Objectory in 1987.

Thus, this week when I attended the Software Development Best Practices conference in Boston, I also decided to visit MIT and see if I would find any of my old colleagues. I went to the new computer science labs which are located in a new building with a very impressive and advanced architecture. I will not attempt to describe it. I looked for names from my year at MIT. And I went to their offices to say hello, but most of them were out. I found Hal Abelson, who was one of the two teachers of the famous class: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. That was and still is the best class I ever have taken. It was so great that I actually brought it back to Sweden as VCR tapes and it was taught at two universities in Sweden for some years. We were chatting for a while, he recognized me very well. “You were working with usability, right”, probably thinking about use cases. Anyway, I didn’t dig deeper into that.

At the SD Best Practices conference, I gave a keynote on Active Software. The last couple of years I have promoted this new idea as one of the biggest mega-trends on the horizon. A book is underway, and I have also devoted some previous postcards to this idea.

However, I am not going to talk about my keynote in this postcard. Instead I will devote this postcard to agile methods. These have become so popular for interesting reasons which I can’t resist reflect on.

Many talks had the term agile in the heading. Many old talks have been modified to motivate the term. Every author and presenter needs to make clear they are agile. So they join the club. I have joined the club too. I wrote a paper at the end of 2001 with the title: A resounding Yes to agile processes – but also to more. Of course we should be agile, there is absolutely no conflict. For me this has always been the goal of everything I have been fighting for. However, we have different ways of getting there.

Before getting there, let us look at the values of the Agile Alliance:

  1. Individuals and interactions over process
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Who can disagree with that?

  1. Of course, people are more important than any book, even if it is a big book on the web. Books don’t produce software. However, knowledge is important to make people successful.
  2. Of course, with working code your customer is happy, even if the design and architecture is expressed in UML. However, working code needs to be understood and maintained after the initial team developed it.
  3. Of course, software requirements can’t be specified upfront. They grow as people work on growing and experiencing the software iteration by iteration.
  4. Of course, detailed planning at the outset of the project is cheating the customer. Software development is a change process and the project should be smart about accommodating changes.

Of course, we all agree with that. So what is then the difference? There is a huge difference, but before answering that question I will give my opinion on why agile methods have become so popular? There are several reasons:

  1. UP (in particular RUP which is the IBM Rational version of Unified Process) has become too large and complex. This is true, but it also leads to a misunderstanding. It is true that UP is large and comprehensive, but the intention was never that everyone should learn everything about UP. Instead, a small subset of UP relevant for a project is selected, and this is what the project members will be trained in. Thanks to a new class of tools based on intelligent agents, the problem of UP being overwhelming will soon be history. WayPointer is such a tool.
  2. No really good tools from major vendors. We tend to forget that the modern software tool industry is less than ten years old. We have not really yet seen a tool environment with seamlessly integrated tools. My old Objectory tool from 1994 had a lot of features and great integration between different models not yet seen in any other tools. The problem was that the tool was developed in Smalltalk and that never became a commercial platform. However, we will very soon see a new generation of tools coming to our market place.

This was of course a very natural basis to grow discontent and there was room for something new. That new had to be something else than technology, because UP had that pretty well covered. The truth is that Agile methods have not contributed anything exciting and original from a technology point of view. Test first design is maybe the most interesting new idea, but it is similar to use case driven tests. From a technology perspective most ideas in agile methods are 20-30 years old.

So again, the new had to be about something else than technology for it to be missing in RUP (or rather perceived as missing as much of the debate is a matter of perception).

  1. Agile methods have added something new.
    They have added best practices on the so called soft factors in software development, such as pair programming, on-site customer, 40 hours work week and so on. We programmers have been drowning in technology and our work environment has had low priority. We like this new interest for the soft factors.

However, this in it self wouldn’t have made agile methods popular. I believe that the most important reasons for the popularity of agile methods are two:

  1. Many experienced developers felt side-stepped by the success of UP. They felt that their hard earned experience became less valued by management. This is of course a management mistake as a successful process adoption requires both knowledge (UP) and experience (people). Successful adoption typically happens when the most experienced architects in an organization are part of the change effort. Leaving them on the side-line is begging for problems.
  2. Another reason that these methods have become so popular is that they don’t require any specific or defined knowledge. Agile methods stand for "tacit knowledge". For experienced people this is of course exactly what they want, no one can tell them what to do. They can accept some general principles but no detailed suggestions are popular. For the inexperienced people, this is of course wonderful. They can also do it with whatever knowledge they have. One uses what one knows, quite simple.

In reality agile methods require very competent programmers to become successful. This is clearly expressed by its originators. In fact they require more knowledge than what a project using the UP requires. The problem is of course that there are not enough good programmers around the world. And those who are that good are very attractive, so they move around quite extensively. This is very different with UP. Usually once people have used UP for a project, the project is less dependent on any individuals (still individuals are important). The UP provides a lot of explicit knowledge, and it doesn’t rely on tacit knowledge only. We can educate in UP to a deep degree, but you can’t educate in tacit knowledge.

In a way I think these methods that now have introduced a concept for tacit, unknown, unstructured or undefined knowledge, takes us back 25-30 years. Let me explain what I mean more explicitly.

  1. In the beginning there was chaos.
  2. UP was meant to solve/control 1. Unfortunately it has had some negative side-effects as we discussed earlier.
  3. Agile methods are removing the side effects by moving back towards 1.
  4. We think that we instead should remove the side-effects by moving forward to third generation processes/active processes., i.e., instead of going back to generation 1.5.

Thus so far the software industry can be described as based on tacit knowledge. As a result we have got a poor reputation for quality of software. This distinguishes the software industry from other modern engineering disciplines. And those are not based on tacit knowledge! We too can’t continue base our future on tacit knowledge.

By now you know why I think agile methods have become popular. It has happened because we didn’t do a good job with UP and tools. This created discontent and was a good ground for making excellent programmers raise there voice and for young people to feel that they could do it without a lot of knowledge. Thus I view agile methods as populist methods. In my next postcard, I will describe how these approaches if not changed dramatically will again loose in popularity because a new class of tools will make them anti-agile in comparison with what will come. What will come will be agility in many more dimensions than today. I will talk about what will come next. Beyond Agile!  

RUP and Agility by Ivar Jacobson

July 23, 2004

Another Rational User Conference has just been concluded. Since 1997 I have attended every one of them, now eight conferences. There were many good talks, but I had no time to attend more than the opening keynote by Mike Devlin. Instead my days were filled by meeting people. Many had heard about my recent adventures in Singapore and Korea and wanted to understand where I am heading. Basically, I see a huge need to help people around the world to apply best practices of software development. Even if we have developed the RUP, we have not been successful in getting people to adopt it and apply it. One of the consequences of this “failure” is that agile methods like XP have become popular. I want to change that, and since RUP not yet has penetrated East Asia, this is a good place to start.

My keynote this year was titled “What you didn’t know about RUP”. So this talk was about the secrets of RUP. Actually a lot of people, including RUP evangelists, don’t know about these secrets. One of the secrets is that RUP or the Unified Process in general, is agile and is in fact becoming increasingly agile as time goes by. I feel that we have not succeeded in explaining why it is so. I took it as my mission to do so.

First I developed some vocabulary to explain why RUP already is agile. When people talk about a process being light or heavy, they actually mean that the process definition (the “book”) is light or heavy. They don’t talk about the process in the meaning of what actually is done and created when you run a project. So we actually have two concepts to discuss, the process definition (PD) and the executing process (P). What we really care about is that the P is agile and not really that the PD is agile.

Thus we can have a light PD (a book) but since it doesn’t explain much it is not of much support to the team that runs a project. They will have to invent the particulars of the process as they go. This may slow down the project substantially, something I have experienced in many projects. Thus a light PD frequently result in a heavy P.

Also, although a rich PD may require that people spend time upfront to learn what to do; it may result in that the P works very smoothly. Everyone in the team knows what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Thus a rich PD frequently results in an agile P. I have seen this happen many times in serious commercial software development.

So far most people agree with me. So let us now talk about the executing P and how to make it agile. Today, to get a PD like RUP to be used in a project, it takes three things:

  1. A subset of the PD has to be chosen and maybe some additional process steps will be added. There are good tools to do so, but still this slows down the project. To be able to select what to use you need to know all that can be used. Most companies don’t have the luxury of time and competence to do that. Makes the P heavy!
  2. Once a proper PD has been created, it has to be adopted. This means that people have to learn it, they need to get it into their heads. This requires training which takes time. Makes the P heavy.
  3. Finally, while running a project, the PD must be applied consistently and effectively. This means that people need to know what to do, when and how. Usually, people can’t do this by themselves, it is a far too big step to go directly from the classroom to your office and do useful things in a productive manner. Thus projects need mentors. Makes the P heavy.

Why would people take on all this work (to define and learn a PD) to develop software? There is only one good reason. We know that people will develop better software, better software from all perspectives.

What have we done to make RUP implementations overcome these difficulties?

  1. Now and even more in the years to come, I believe we will see a number of predefined variants of RUP become available. We will have ready-made light PDs, and we will have heavy PDs for product-line developments. This makes RUP more agile. You start using the PD that works for you.
  2. With RUP comes a lot of training material. RUP comes with a set of very systematic models, enforcing traceability and consistency between them. This makes it very systematic compared to the light methods, and consequently we can train developers in a systematic way to understand good software development practices. We can train people to become competent. Still, yet training needs to be done in a more agile way.
  3. Good software and software developed in an agile way can only be created by smart people. You can only be smart if you are competent. Since RUP helps you to become competent, you also have the preconditions to become smart which helps you to become more agile in applying best practices.

However, we won’t stop here. Already when I started the development of what became RUP back in 1987, I knew we need to take one step more. We need to make the process active and executable, not just a dead book. We need to support the developer with “intelligent” tools. This is why we started Jaczone and developed WayPointer. WayPointer will help us make a big step forward in agility:

  1. One day I believe WayPointer will help configure the PD while you are working. WayPointer will recognize what the team is doing and present a PD that is just enough of process. For a small project it will be a light version of RUP. For a larger project a richer version of RUP will be provided. This will happen as you go, without having a heavy upfront configuration activity. Isn’t this agile?
  2. With WayPointer, training doesn’t happen in classrooms but while you work. Thus no heavy training before starting, instead “train as you work”. Very agile, right?
  3. Finally, WayPointer will help you to also apply the PD. It is very context sensitive, so it can give proposals of what to do in every micro step as you work. It can facilitate the doing of many activities which today have to be done manually, but which should follow one another in a natural way. It speeds up the whole project in a substantial way. This is what I would call agile, and it far exceeds what you can do with what is called agile methods.

To summarize, agility can only be delivered by people, people that are smart. People can only be smart if they have knowledge. Knowledge needs to be shared between the members of the team; otherwise it will slow down the team. Most of the knowledge they need are rules about best practices and implementation technologies. Most of these rules can be captured in a “tool” like RUP, but to achieve substantial agility, these rules should be manifest in another more intelligent tool, making the process active. In that way there is no limit to how agile we will be developing software in the years to come. 

Going Back Home by Ivar Jacobson

July 3, 2004

After three days in St. Petersburg I am now on my way to the city where I grew up and graduated from high school. The city is Ystad located in the very south of Sweden at the Baltic Sea. Every year I spend a week in Ystad to meet old friends, friends I have had since I was 7-18 years old.

To my surprise there are not yet any major software conferences in Russia. Conferences are organized by universities or by international companies like SUN, Microsoft, etc. I gave a talk at the 5th international scientific and technical conference and got a good impression of what people worked with and what was presented. Then I met with academic leaders with a strong network in the software industry. I spent a day at St. Petersburg State University as a guest of Professor Andrey Terekhov.

That day turned out to be very interesting. For many years I have been wanting to develop process and tools to reengineer old software systems to become modern component based software, modeled with UML and implemented on modern platforms such as J2EE or .NET. Andrey told me that he had been working with a company in the US that sells tools and services to reengineer from the bottom and up. I know the company very well. In fact, a few years ago, they offered me to become a member of their advisory board. And now I met the guy who developed their tools.

The reason I didn’t accept the offer was that I didn’t see that their design would be generic enough. They had their own modelling technique, their own process and their own tools. My approach is the one I wrote about 1991 in my OOPSLA’91 paper on Reengineering Old Systems to an Object-Oriented Architecture. However, I liked their low level reverse engineering tools. And these tools were developed by Andrey and his company. I think there is a huge demand to reengineer legacy systems, particularly those written in COBOL or PL/1. I have many customers that would be willing to invest in such tools. I am now thinking about if and how to do this. Thus, the meeting with Professor Andrey Terekhov and his team was really refreshing.

During my stay in St. Petersburg, I enjoyed sightseeing and good restaurants. Elena Ivanova arranged my whole visit and she and her son were great guides. Of course, the Ermitage was very interesting. Also just walking around in the city during the beautiful White Nights and along the Neva River was very relaxing and romantic. And I love Beluga caviar. I had caviar with small vodka every night, and carried home as much as you are allowed. The price for 213 g top quality caviar was just 50 USD. At home I would have had to pay more than 1,000 USD. Maybe we are in the wrong business?  

Looking Back on Aspects by Ivar Jacobson

June 6, 2004

Often I am asked which my favourite country is. In addition to Sweden, where I grew up and have family, I have many favourite countries. Most countries have something that makes me feel happy and at home. Singapore is certainly one of them.

Last Thursday I held a seminar in Singapore for more than 200 persons and launched my latest adventure – the forming of a new company, Ivar Jacobson Pte Ltd. We will help organizations to implement the best practices of the unified process. We will also expand the set of best practices, not just help with the existing ones. For instance we will train and mentor organizations in aspect-oriented software development and active software development (using intelligent agents).

One of the best practices is about aspects. The first time I heard the term aspect-oriented programming was back in 1997. I immediately saw it as an interesting technology, but at the time I couldn’t take a serious look at. I was working on the first version of UML, I was working on getting RUP right and I was initiating an effort on active software processes – actually what now has resulted in Jaczone WayPointer. When I finally had time to take a good look at aspects it was in September 2002. I downloaded a lot of papers and studied them for a couple of days. After that I contacted Harold Ossher at IBM Research and Karl Lieberherr at North Eastern University in Boston. They are two of the leaders in this space. The most well-known guy on aspects is Gregor Kizcales. I tried to get his attention as well, but he was too busy at the moment.

In November 2002, I visited the IBM folks and spent a day with them understanding their work. After the meeting I was very impressed and excited about what they had done. I left their office, rushed to Newark airport; I had to run to the gate. This is normal. I was on my way to Stockholm. When I was seated in the plane, I ordered some champagne and began to relax and think a little. Suddenly, it struck me. Didn’t I do something similar before? Didn’t I write a paper on the same subject at OOPSLA’86 – the very first OOPSLA conference?

When I came to Stockholm, I started to hunt for the paper. It was a paper that discussed a topic that I mentioned as future work in my Ph. D. thesis from 1985. However, I got no interest for the ideas in the paper, so I decided to leave the subject. I felt it was too early to push those ideas. So I just forgot about it. My work on component-based development with objects and use cases was so successful so there was no room for new inventions. However, now I wanted to find the paper, I went to the publisher’s web site. I found the paper. I had to pay $95 to download it! My own paper!!!

The title of the paper is “Language Support for Changeable Large Real Time Systems”. In that paper I introduced several concepts – existion which represents a base, extension which represents separate functionality which you want to add to the existion. Instead of modifying the existion to invoke an extension, we used a mechanism to allow the extension to add behaviour into the existion. Thus from the perspective of the existion, no modification was needed. This means that you can add extensions after extensions without breaking the existion. The key idea is this: by keeping extensions separate from the base from the developer’s perspective, the system is much easier to understand, maintain and extend.

The basic idea sounded very much like what aspect orientation research is trying to achieve. But I needed confirmation. Two hours after I downloaded the paper I sent it to Karl Lieberherr. He responded: “Wow Ivar, this is an early paper on aspect-orientation”. He asked me if I had anything more. Since, I throw away everything I don’t work with; my first thought was that there was nothing more. However, I was excited, and my thoughts went back to the time before the paper. My memory asked me, “Didn’t you file a patent for a similar work?”

The patent was filed in 1981 and I made it as an employee of Ericsson. I called the Ericsson patent department and asked if they had saved the application. After a week they came back. I got a copy of the application – in Swedish. The application used typical patent language, so I had actually never understood it. It was written by a patent engineer. However, attached to the application was an internal Ericsson paper that described the whole idea in a couple of pages. It was a quite detailed paper with a practical example. This paper was also in Swedish. I had both documents translated by a professional translator into English, and you can find them on www.ivarjacobson.com (look for published papers and aspect-oriented software development).

The patent was about what we called a sequence variator. It works at the micro-program instruction level. The highlight of the design is this: A program has a list of instructions. To each instruction, I added a flag. If this flag is turned on, it means that there is an extension that needs to be executed at this point. The sequence variator will fetch instructions from the extension, and thereafter resume at the next instruction. This branching is taken care of by the sequence variator. The developer of the original instructions do not need to code branch statements.

Alright, to make a long story short, Karl Lieberherr and Harold Ossher liked my early work. Karl wrote an email where he compared my early work with modern aspect-orientation: Extension ˜ Aspect, extension point ˜ join point, etc. I then wrote a couple of papers on aspects and use cases (see www.jaczone.com/papers) , and I was a result invited to give keynote talks at international conferences on aspect orientation. I was very happy being recognized for my early work. Now I am working on a book on aspects and use cases together with my colleague Pan-Wei Ng from Singapore. You will soon see this book in bookstores. I will be very happy if you buy it :-). I will be even happier if you read it (because this is not the same) :-). You can also ask me for a presentation. After all, I am in the business of promoting best practices in software development.

Happy Easter by Ivar Jacobson

April 12, 2004:  Happy Easter! 

I hope you have had a great Easter holiday.  I spent my holiday in Verbier, Switzerland.  This is the place I call home.  It is a small village with just a few thousand residents, high up in the Alps.  During the skiing season the village is filled with people from all around the world.  I love it here as I am a passionate skier and hiker.  In the summertime this place is a paradise for hikers.  Moreover, at the end of July every year one of the greatest music festivals in the world takes place here.  The village has lots of activities and it offers great food and wine. And it has great connections to the rest of world, both in transportation and telecommunication.

I have nothing serious for you today.  I can’t think about serious things this wonderful day.  Instead I have been skiing all day.  The weather has been fantastic, sunny and clear skies. The snow perfect, not wet as is quite normal for this time of the year.  After a full week of skiing I went to the ski-rental to return my skis.  I will go on my next trip (to Seoul) the day after tomorrow, and I know I won’t be able to ski anymore.

I enter the ski-rental, greet the people happily and tell them I want to return my skis.  They look happy but a bit surprised. “But those skis are not our skis”, the renter says.  “What?” I scream. I look at the skis and immediately realize that I have someone else’s skis.  I feel awful.  What have I done?  When did it happen?  

-- “Oh, I know, it must have happened after lunch, 3 hours ago, when I went out from the restaurant at the top.  I must have taken the wrong skis, they look very similar.” 

After some discussion we agree that I should go up to the restaurant and see if my skis are still there.  Thus I take a long walk in ski boots carrying someone else’s skis.  Every skier knows how fun that is.  After a two hundred meter walk I take the cable car up to the mid-mountain -- Ruinette.  It takes about 12 minutes.  Then I take another cable car to the top – Les Attiles – this takes another 10 minutes.

With high expectations I walk over to the restaurant.  I look for my skis.  There are less skis now but still some 20-30 pairs.  I walk up to the spot where I had put my skis…and there in the snow, lying down -- are my skis!  I become happy as a bird.  I found my skis!  

Now, what should I do with the other skis? The ones I had involuntarily stolen.  It was more than 3 hours since the mix-up.  Would the owner expect the skis to come back?  After some thinking I decides to leave the skis where I first took them and go to the police in the village and tell them my story.  After all it was just a pair of skis.  Well, I know how I would have felt if I came out from a restaurant and my skis were stolen.  I could only hope for that the owner was smaller than me. J

Thus, I decide to put on my original rental skis and ski all the way down.  I try step into them, but it doesn’t work well at all.  After a couple of attempts, I understand that these skis are not mine.  They belong to someone else.  The skis are of exactly the same type as mine, and they come from the same ski-rental.  Unbelievable!  Slowly, I start to understand the situation.  There must be three ski owners involved.  The guy, who owned the skis I just found in the snow, had of course taken my skis.  The third owner is the poor guy whose skis I took.

However, to be sure to not make another mistake, I take one of the skis that I, a few minutes ago, thought were mine and walk into the restaurant.  I go from table to table and ask every guest, if he or she is the owner of the skis that were similar to mine.  Can you imagine what it takes to do that?  I felt like an idiot asking everyone: “Is this your ski?”  People start to make jokes.  They are laughing and smiling.  After having asked everyone without anyone recognizing the ski, I feel certain that my theory about three owners is right.  I take the skis that were similar to mine, but not mine, on my shoulders and go to the cable car to go down.

On my way a really big guy stops me and says “Hey buddy, where are you going with my skis?”  I am chocked.  I start to tell my story.  As you can imagine, it is not easy to know where to start.  However, I think I succeeded in convincing him that I was not trying to steal his skis.  I apologize so much and give him his skis.

So, I am back at square one.  Someone has taken my skis and I have taken his skis.  Now I take a bold decision.  I will go back with the wrong skis to the ski-rental and hope that my original skis are returned – and the guy who returned my skis will get his skis back.  Maybe I will see an end to this story.

Thus I go all the way down using the cable cars, first to Ruinette and then down to the village.  I walk the two hundred meters down to the ski-rental.  Halfway, I meet a young lady who looks at me with an interested look.  When I come close I understand she doesn’t look at me but at my stolen skis.  And she says:

-- You have…hmm…you have my skis!-- Well, yes, do you have mine?-- Why on earth would I have your skis? she says.

-- Good question!, was the best answer I could come up with.

Well, I explain the whole story to her.  Then she says:

-- I was waiting for an hour to see if you would come back.  I saw a pair of skis similar to the ones you have.  They were still there when I left.-- Well, I was just up there to see if they were there, I said.  But they were gone.-- Did you really look carefully? I am asking because I saw them just half an hour ago.-- OK, I will go up to Attilla and look once more.

-- Attilla?, she said.  Attilla, no!  They were at Ruinette!!!

Suddenly the whole picture becomes clear to me.  I didn’t loose my skis outside the restaurant, but at the mid station where I did some stretching before going down the last slope.  Thus I took off my skis to stretch.  After having stretched I took the wrong skis.  It is hard to understand that I could make such a mistake.

The young lady was at first angry like a bee.  Then I told her that I thought my mistake was made on the top.  I also told her about the other skis I was about to steal.  At this time she started to laugh.  I tell her that I want to compensate her for her suffering.  I ask her if I can offer her a glass of wine or two.  She says, yes, that would be great… 

 I then went up to Ruinette again.  I find my skis where I had left them one and a half hour ago.  And that is the end of the story.  However, I can’t resist thinking how different this story could have ended.  Suppose, that I had “succeeded” in taking the other pair of skis at the top.  Then I would have “stolen” two pair of skis (in the same day) and probably been known as a ski thief in Verbier, a reputation I can do without.  And, I wouldn’t have been able to offer the young lady a couple of glasses of Pinot Noir! 

SOA by Ivar Jacobson

March 30, 2004

Before being invited to Tallahassee, I had never heard about it. I flew in to the city in the morning and back in the evening. I spent a day with the State of Florida. Bill Lucas did a wonderful job in making me feel very welcome and everyone I met was very friendly and interested in my work. I enjoyed my day very much. One of the questions we discussed was web services. The last couple of years services have become important elements for describing and building software. As with everything new, the software world has a tendency to believe that something fundamentally different has surfaced and that a new way of thinking is required. As a consequence we have got a whole arsenal of new concepts around the concept of services. We have got “service-oriented architectures”, “on demand”, “utility computing”...you name it. However, there is nothing fundamentally new with services. To organize software in services is an old practice.

Services were once a very important construct in RUP, actually in the version of RUP that we called 3.8. (It was the version prior to Rational buying my company, so it was called Objectory 3.8.) Unfortunately, the RUP team thought that downplaying services in RUP would make it significantly simpler. I disagreed with this opinion, but accepted it because almost everything else was adopted. It was very hard to argue for service-oriented design when the concept hadn’t hit the software industry. With Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) on the table, the need is there.

In 1998, I wrote about services in the Unified Software Development Process book: Apart from providing use cases to its users, every system also provides a set of services to its customers. I made a distinction between end-users of the system and the customer who purchases a system for its users. For instance, a bank system has users which may be clients of the bank, and the bank itself is a customer of the system (maybe buying it from some system integrator). A customer acquires a suitable mix of services. Through these services the system will provide the necessary use cases for the users to do their business:

  • A use case specifies a sequence of actions: a thread is initiated by an actor, followed by interactions between the actor and the system, and completed and stopped after having returned a value to the actor. Usually, use cases don’t exist in isolation. For instance, the Withdraw Money use case assumes that another use case has created a user account and that the user’s address and other user data are accessible.
  • A service represents a coherent set of functionally related actions - a package of functionality - that is employed in several use cases. A customer of a system usually buys a mix of services to give its users the necessary use cases. A service is indivisible in the sense that the system needs to provide it completely or not at all.
  • Use cases are for users, and services are for customers. Use cases cross services, that is, a use case requires actions from several services. A service usually provides several use cases or parts of several use cases.

In the Unified Process, the service concept is in analysis (platform independent modelling) supported by service packages. The following can be noted about service packages:

  • A service package contains a set of functionally related classes.
  • A service package is indivisible. Each customer gets either all classes in the service package or none at all. Thus a service package is a configuration unit.
  • When a use case is realized, one or more service packages may be participants in the realization. Moreover, it is common for a specific service package to participate in several different use-case realizations.
  • A service package often has very limited dependencies toward other service packages.
  • A service package is usually of relevance to only one or a few actors.
  • The functionality defined by a service package can when designed and implemented be managed as a separate delivery unit. A service package can thus represent some “add-in” functionality of the system. When a service package is excluded, so is every use case whose realization requires the service package.
  • Service packages may be mutually exclusive, or they may represent different aspects or variants of the same service. For example, “spell checking for British English” and “spell checking for American English” may be two different service packages provided by a system. You configure the system with one or the other, but maybe not with both.
  • The service packages constitute an essential input to subsequent design and implementation activities, in that they will help structure the design and implementation models in terms of service subsystems. In particular, the service subsystems have a major impact on the system’s decomposition into binary and executable components. This is of course only true if the development is going top-down with no reuse of existing components: legacy systems, packaged solutions, web services. And fact is, we develop more and more with reusable components.

By structuring the system according to the services it provides, we prepare for changes in individual services, since such changes are likely to be localized to the corresponding service package. This yields a robust system that is resilient to change.  

Given that most software of today is developed with ready made components, why would you like to design an analysis model (a platform independent model) with service packages. There is one good reason: we still need to understand what we are doing. Building software is about understanding, understanding components developed by different vendors, divisions, teams. An analysis model - maybe even just a partial model - used as a start help you overcome these difficulties.  

Jolt Awards by Ivar Jacobson

March 17, 2004

Today I gave a keynote at the Software Development West conference in Santa Clara. Today is also a very special day that I have been looking forward to for a long time. The reason is that the Jolt award judges announced their result today at the conference. WayPointer is one of the products that made it all the way to the finals. Given that WayPointer is so different compared to other tools, I was not sure that the judges would have time to penetrate it enough to see its many values.

I gave my keynote on Aspects and Use Cases working together. The audience seemed to like it and I enjoyed talking about it. After all, it is work that I started more than 25 years ago - that thanks to the work of Gregor Kizcales, Harold Ossher and other friends - now finally can be harvested. As you can understand, I was quite passionate.

Directly after my keynote the Jolt awards were announced. There were a number of different categories and WayPointer competed in the category for Analysis and Design tools. I had to wait for quite some time before the decision was announced. To my great joy and pride, WayPointer won a Jolt Productivity Award.

The Jaczone team has really done an incredible job. They have implemented a tool using concepts and technologies that not yet are widely supported by commercial platforms. They have done it in a very effective way and perhaps most importantly in a way that is accessible but yet non-intrusive to users.

I am very proud of them. Hope you all understand why this tool is so important.  

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