• Date: 11/4/2010

    The Long Term Consequences of Short Term Solutions

    In this post, Alex, one of our Systems and Software Engineering Consultants and Lecturers steps up to the mic to share thoughts he had after going to IBM Rational's Innovation 2010 event... 
    Shows and exhibitions form part of any industry so it's hardly surprising that the software and systems engineering community has so many of them. I'm not usually a fan of these events which seem to involve an excessive amount of currying favour and flogging products - which really isn't my style. 

    Once in a while, however, I find a reason to attend a show and am pleasantly surprised by the outcome. It was to see a presentation, by a customer that I've been working closely with, that I attended IBM Rational's Innovation 2010. I was interested to see how he would present the work we've been doing in applying a model based approach to systems engineering (a subject of intense interest to me at the moment). 

    As expected, the presentation was both entertaining and informative; to the point where I felt compelled to restrain myself from adding the occasional joking heckle from the front row (something I'd been light-heartedly threatening all morning). Even when the presentation glossed over some challenges in the chosen methodology (something that we're still working out with the client) I kept mum although I did comment on my observations during the team 'post mortem'.

    It was during that discussion that we were approached by a software engineer who wanted to learn more about how we had overcome the challenges of introducing modelling within the company. It transpired that the company of said software engineer had introduced object oriented software development and had invested money into a tool without providing any process, methodology or training in the use of UML modelling. Naturally this approach was not as successful as was hoped and they were starting to doubt the approach. Having invested considerable personal time and resources to training himself, the engineer in question was bordering on becoming distraught, fearing that his company would see OO as inappropriate and that he would be trapped in a world of functional decomposition for the rest of his career.

    When asked my opinion on how to prevent a failure to move forwards I was reminded of the Agile Manifesto which states, as one of its tenants, "we value individuals and interactions over processes and tools". It has made me wonder how many other organisations believe that throwing money or technology at a problem is a magical cure all and fail to understand that it is investment in training and the correct application of methodology that is the key to success.

    In this era of economic uncertainty and cut backs it is easy to understand how people adopt a quick fix approach to problems but someone has to spread the word that investing in improvement now will reap rewards in the long term.

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