Model Storming

March 28th, 2010

Model StormingLast week, I attended a workshop of a new initiative in software engineering (SEMAT see This was the first real f2f meeting we've had. 28 people attended the workshop and one session with around 12 people were working on developing more detailed objectives of the entire initiative.

To develop the objectives we appointed a facilitator. He suggested that we make a usage model for the Semat initiative. But for this blog, what we modeled is not so important. It is the principles that are important. We built up the model on a large bulletin board using yellow, rectangular post-it stickers. A usage was like a use case or a user story.  Long side up for usages. Short side up for users outside the system. These were in essence all the instructions we got.

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How to stop thinking about business as “the customer” and IT as “the vendor”

March 23rd, 2010

How to stop thinking about business as “the customer” and IT as “the vendor”In my last three blogs, I discussed how we can close the gap between the business and IT. I summed up the way forward with the advice to stop thinking about the business as the customer and IT as the provider. Instead, let them work together in teams (similar to members of a soccer team), responsible directly to management.

It will not be an easy journey, but here are some steps along the way:

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How do we get business and IT to play on the same team?

February 8th, 2010

How do we get business and IT to play on the same team?To close the gap between business and IT we need to get them to play on the same team, as said in my two previous blogs. I compared this team with a soccer team in which the participants are not just specialists but also generalists – they can all kick the ball when called upon.

The Business-IT “team” should work in a similar way. Despite having specialized roles, all of the participants should contribute to achieve a common goal in order for everyone to be successful.

But do they? If they were a soccer team they would probably not win many, if any, games. Extending the soccer analogy, the business often acts like the absentee owner who wants the team to win but does not really want to take the time to be directly involved. Instead they try to micro-manage from a distance, demanding a detailed play-by-play plan for who is going to score and when, and they berate the team for not adhering to the plan. They will say that they will provide players (business representatives and product owners) but the players they assign are usually absent because they are too busy doing other things. As the team owner, they also don’t want to spend too much to hire the best players and coaches, but they still want to win against teams that are willing to spend more. Read the rest of this entry »

Let the Business and IT play on the same team

December 19th, 2009

Let the Business and IT play on the same teamIn an earlier blog (Nov 2009: Closing the Gap between Business and IT) I described the gap between business and IT and suggested a way forward: we must speak the same language.  That language must be more than just a spoken language; some simple drawings or models are often useful.  However, beware of business models inspired by software models, which assume an underlying abstract computational machine. We must work together pursuing common goals and results - without resorting to passing documents from one side to the other.  And we must deliver high-quality results on regular intervals.

Forrester says we should have a “fusion” of the business and IT, going beyond mere alignment. The idea is sound, but it is better to get them to play on the same team together and win.

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SEMAT (Software Engineering Method and Theory): A Call for Action

December 18th, 2009

We are some people who have observed software engineering theory and practice of the past decades and have realized that it is now time to revitalize this discipline. We have been quietly planning a “revolution”.

For those who have been following my columns may know that, for a very long time, I have been talking about that we need a theory of software engineering. See my two blog entries, “A problem to fix: We don’t understand the nature of software engineering” February 2009, and “Someday we must become professionals!” March 2009, which describe my thoughts on this issue when it all started over a year ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Closing the Gap between Business and IT

November 17th, 2009

From almost the dawn of the age of software more than 50 years ago, there has been a communication gap between business and IT. For almost as long we have sought solutions, but they always seem to elude us.  Meanwhile, the gap has grown into a chasm that now needs a fairly substantial bridge.

From the business you may hear that ”we have no confidence in IT’s ability to deliver useful solutions”, or “we have limited visibility of progress, risks and problems”, and “we don’t know how we should measure the value of our investments in IT.” Read the rest of this entry »

There are practices and then there are Practices

November 10th, 2009

The software development community has been talking about practices in an informal way for a very long time - more than 50 years. In the way the community talks, a “practice” is just something that people do, a habit they have that may be good, or perhaps not good. Talking about practices in this way makes for good conversation, but it is hard to figure out how to combine good practices into something meaningful.

I like to talk about practices in a more precise way, so I will refer to these as Practices (with a capital ‘P’). With a more precise definition we can do some interesting things: we can combine them (or compose them) in interesting ways, and we can separate them to allow us to replace a practice with a better one. Read the rest of this entry »

A Day of Honor

October 30th, 2009

Lima, Perú, October 21, 2009

This time I have something to tell you about my visit to Peru. I had been nominated to receive an honorary Doctorate degree from the University of San Martin de Porres (USMP) in Lima Perú. USMP is one of the most prestigious universities in South America. Thus, when I got the offer from USMP and saw people who previously had been awarded honorary degrees, I felt I was in great company. James Martin (the father of case tools and much more) and Nick Negroponte (the founder of MIT’s Media Lab and the “One Laptop per Child” Initiative) received the honorary degrees in 1997 and 2007 respectively. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking the temperature of UML

June 30th, 2009

More than twelve years have passed since UML, the Unified Modeling Language, became a standard. During these years the perception of UML has ranged from the heights of the heavens to the depths of the earth.

At the beginning of the 1990s there were 26 published methods on object-orientation, most methods with its own notation. It was to address at least the notation problem that UML was conceived. As most of you probably know, Grady Booch, Jim Rumbaugh and I initiated the design of what became UML, but very quickly many other great people joined the effort and OMG undertook to launch the result. UML quickly made most other notations superfluous. Along with the notations many methods also fell by the wayside, leaving the Unified Process, which had embraced UML, as a de-facto standard along with UML. UML’s adoption spread like wildfire. Read the rest of this entry »

In need of a theory for software engineering

May 29th, 2009

To an external observer it would appear that the consensus about the way software should be developed changes dramatically every second or third year, more frequently than the whims of fashion. Trends seem to come and go with no rhyme or reason, and it seems that the label you adopt is more important than the results that you get or the things that you actually do.

Are we working in engineering or in a fashion industry?

Have you ever taken the time to investigate a new method or practice only to find that it is just the re-branding and re-gurgitation of ideas that you have seen many times before? Read the rest of this entry »