Ivars Postcard in June

It has taken me a long time to read this, and comment on it. The Ivar in question is a chap called Ivar Jacobson, who you may have heard of being as he was one of the original team involved in the development of UML.

He now travels the world and the posts to his email list are called Ivar’s postcards. I am subscribed on my work email, which I don’t read as often these days being based out of the office so I haven’t worked through the mailing lists for a while.

Ivar’s postcard from June recounts his recent trip to China, and like parallel developments in India, looks at the rapidly maturing software development industry across there. Key in his discussion is the quality vs process argument, as expressed in the efforts of the Chinese to scale the heights of the Capability Maturity Model.

It reminded me of my early experiences of formal processes, and how in my younger (and more naive) days I thought that process was the way to go. Of course, BS5750, ISO9000, and later Prince 2 etc are good reminders but they don’t (and shouldn’t) take away from the skills of experienced managers and developers engaged in the delivery of a project. One particular project manager I worked with on a retail e-commerce project impressed me at the time, and spoke a lot about achieving the scales on the capability maturity model. There are of course balances to be sought, others have commented that it can effectively drive out innovation and turn a company completely risk averse if taken to extremes.

At this point, I could refer to Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but unfortunately after reading it I can only remember being saddened by the life of the writer and the decline of his son. I know it is supposed to be an exploration of quality – I’ll have to read it again! And yes, it has motorbikes in it.

Anyway, don’t confuse a good process with a “good” product.