Category Archives: Software measurement

The more things change... the more they stay the same

As I was perusing through about a year’s worth of industry journals accumulating as they do in a pile in the corner of my office, I was hit with a flash of deja vu. Some of the journals hidden in the corners had actually been there for more than 24 months, and I was amazed to discover that this depression/recession/financial crisis we are in is not new. In fact, for the majority of years in this new millenium – we’ve been in a downturn!

This continuing trend – Information Week headlines from 2003 declared job hunting woes were in full swing back then – has been going on for years – albeit not in as dramatic as today – but the situation is not strikingly new. It’s just taken us the aggregation of a pile of small things (and big things such as the Wall Street collapse) to realize the full gravity of the situation.

Having said this, there are two major thoughts that come to mind when we apply this same trend to software development:

1. This too will pass (it always does); and
2. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Let me explain:

“This too will pass” – in the heat of our current crisis where software development budgets, projects, contracts, have been curtailed and layoffs announced, companies have reacted in the typical cocooning mode by burying their heads and cutting out any “superfluous spending” such as training, travel, conferences, process improvement and measurement. Yet, again and again, we know in our hearts and minds that this current crisis will pass and that this is the IDEAL TIME to invest (wisely) in just that very training to upgrade our workforces, exchanging information at conferences with best-in-class organizations, and investing strategically in process improvement and sustainable measurement initiatives so that we are ready, lean, and mean when the current situation passes (as it will). Corporations simply do not seem to learn, and instead of truly relying on the ingenuity and innovativeness of the America we know and love, they fall back on the scrimping and saving mode (like hiding money between mattresses) that worked for our forefathers but which has been proven to worsen (not improve) the competitiveness of a corporation when we come out of the current temporary crisis.

2. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

What I mean by this is that the more an industry finally embraces a particular concept, methodology, or newfangled approach, the more that nothing really changes. For example, take the current case of the adoption of agile methods of software development. While the proponents tout statistics based mostly on intuition and gut feel (proclamations such as agile is the only way to develop software today, bar none), the contrarians proclaim that the approach does not progress the industry but rather takes us back a step. They profess that agile is imperfect for all applications, do not provide a trail of quantifiable measurements, do not provide adequate documentation or commented code, and do not provide a solid system architecture to sustain the functionality into the future.

So what happens next? Following in the historical cycle, the current agile methods will begin to crumble (and be torn apart by some of the early adopters who now see the folly in some of the less disciplined aspects of the methodology), a “new and improved and evolutionary” approach will be devised and introduced, and the masses will go back to the tried and true (waterfall methodology) that does not work when agile is needed – and a new convincing and influencing cycle will start to convince the software development industry to try the new and improved “whatever approach”.

So the more that things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Interesting culture of change n’est-ce pas?

This week I am facilitating a different set of workshops on Global Projects with Cultural Diversity and the question arose about the changing of a country’s culture (such as India or China) based on the amount of outsourcing that is happening. While the pace of technology change can be rapid and pervasive, the change of a culture is extremely slow – proving again that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Stay warm this February wherever you are (or cool if you are in Australia facing this month’s record high temperatures of +40C!) – and have a good week.

I’ll be back next week with more of the same – and a little bit of different! Happy development.

p.s., Here’s a humorous photo from the icy streets of Santa Fe, NM during New Year’s week this year. The Danger sign was missing a few letters…. Enjoy!

Carol Dekkers

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