January 2002

It was a solid turn out in January, with Prof. David Klappholz and Larry Bernstein of Stevens presenting tonight's topic on Overcoming Aversion to Software Process Through Controlled Failure. The following highlight reflects the viewgraph (VG) number of their presentation:

VG4 - There is a view in the academia that teaching software process is not as valuable as computer science courses. David had this view 5 years ago until he was convinced by Larry. Also, teaching the latest and greatest technology or programming language is more visible.

VG8 - The use of case history is common in other disciplines, such as business or law, so why not software process?

VG9 - Many students felt that they're different, or that they're more superior. There is this air of the "adolescent attitude". Most of them have this "walk-on-water" attitude that they've been successful since grade schools. Why should they fail to meet deadline now? University itself did not like to dwell on past failure or controlled failure. How many of our leaders had learned from history's past mistakes? Even though learned in classroom, but most failed to use that knowledge during crunch time at work.

VG10 - Editorial - check out this book on Software Requirements by Karl Wiegers. All seniors in Stevens have to take Larry's software process course before graduating.

VG12 - Poor requirement is the number 1 cause of software failure.


We're also guilty of not collecting data or share our software data; there is little liability or accountability in shipping software late or with bugs, as witnessed in industry giant Microsoft's latest XP OS and Office Suite. We're focusing on getting things done, but not doing it right, due to many factors.

Larry pointed out one of the key culprits is senior management. Most of us know how to do systems engineering and the technical stuff, but if senior managers overcommit, that limits the project manager's risk management capability. Scalability of software is another issue.

The good news is that students who took courses in process do become better developers or engineers, at least they're cognizant of what should be done. Other engineering discipline are more process focus, but not software. There used to be human factor engineers, but most of them are in hiding or change career. Coders and developers are being rewarded, so we get ourselves more coders and developers based on the reward systems. However, most of them plateau after 5 years or so. Guess that is why most of us process professional tends to be more "mature".

It takes more time to "untrain" bad habits accumulate out in the production area. Colleges like USC and UCLA have rigorous curriculum to address process, as well as Stevens. However, it is always an uphill battle. Even in Japan, new projects are done more adhoc than maintenance which are done with process and quality. In India, most outsourced projects are of maintenance nature while the new ones are kept on the state side.

We ran out of time and stopped at VG17. The Q&A was the highlight of the evening.

by Lenny Eng

Business Items:

1. The secretary function is being transition to John Dworak, Eric Remington and Bob Zotti next month. Anyone who would like their friends or associate's names added to the mailing list, please send mail to John Dworak in the future.

2. Dr. Mike D'Ambrosa will be presenting his talk on CMM Level 2 Software Subcontract Management (SSM) KPA on February 13, 2002.

3. For those who are interested, one of the members has a lead for a process professional in the NYC area. Please send Lenny Eng your name and resume so that he can forward it.

4. IBM Lecture Series:
Feb 28 - March 1 -- The Outsourcing Decision --- attractive to CIOs & their reports
March 7-8 -- Data Mining for Executive Decision -- an eye-opener on how to leverage this relatively new technology for understanding (lots of) data. See the IBM website link or contact Carl Singer at csinger@us.ibm.com for details.

5. Software Management Solution is offering the following course:
February 4-5, 2002: CMM Workshop -- Woodbridge Hilton, Iselin, NJ
Check the SFS website link for details.