Building Better Software

One of the ways in which many software development teams have tried to improve is by examining what has worked in other organizations and projects and experimenting with ideas. Across the decades that we have been using computers, there have been quite a few models, the most well known of which is the CMMI Model from Carnegie Mellon University.

The CMMI Model contains lots of good ideas and practices, much like Six Sigma, ISO and other frameworks. However we (as a group) often don’t follow many of the ideas. It seems that so many developers (under pressure from managers) work to just complete tasks, without regards to the well known, valuable techniques of measurement, improvement, and more.

However there isn’t much magic in using any of these frameworks. They all cover similar concepts, which are based on measuring what you do, taking that feedback to alter your process and get better, as well as then working within a structured process that is repeatable. Do more of what works, and do less of what doesn’t. Adjust your way of working regularly.

The problem for most of us is getting a group of people to actually follow a process over and over. It seems that we continually want, at least as a large group, to cowboy code our way through development cycles, without learning from the past. Of course, I meet plenty of people that use an ALM (or DLM) process to build software, and they all espouse the benefits, but they do note that it takes a long time to adopt a new process throughout an organization. A year of investment isn’t considered uncommon.

Perhaps that’s the problem? Can management actually make the investment time to build out better processes? The media hype says they want to, with all the DevOps hype. Plenty of companies, including Redgate Software, are selling tools that companies use to help themselves adopt a process. However I wonder how successful organizations are. Is there enough continuity in the technical staff and management to actually make a change? It took Microsoft years to change. Are you moving in that direction? Is there any chance you will?

Steve Jones

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