Do we need to be agile?

Every few years there is a lot of fuzz about new and revolutionary methods, techniques or tools that promise vast productivity improvements in software developments. And then this wave dies away, and everybody continues as before. Actually, anybody out there old enough to remember the term CASE as in “CASE tools”? CASE stood for Computer Aided Software Engineering, and of course one thought of a toolsuite when using this term. This was a popular term in the 1980s. The (partial) automation of software engineering was the the glorious goal. All you needed to do thereafter was to buy better computers so that the CASE tools could run faster – true to the Newtonian spirit of industry.

What happened? Well, do you see a “software assembly line” anywhere? I remember a report about the CASE tools that were sold and bought in those years. It stated that close to 50% of the tools purchased, sorry, licenced, were never ever used! They couldn’t get past deployment in the organisation, not even to mention usage in a live project.

BTW, in 1977 Barry Boehm had already published his research showing that tools were not the productivity “wunderwaffe”.

Somehow the industry survived. The software crisis deepened, and provided limitless employment and business opportunities. Software “infected” more and more services and products. Within less than twenty years cars, which initially had a bit of software in some of their parts, turned into “software on wheels.” Other industries experienced something similar. It is like software began to change from an infectious disease to a pandemic.

And look what is in stall for us: the Internet of Things.

Thanks to Cisco for this nice graphics, which visualises the explosion that is about to happen – or is it happening already? Software engineers of the world – five day week and holidays are a thing of the past. There is work to be done! Back to scheduling people for 130% of their time so that they work at least 100%. Or – what will the future bring?

Do we have to be agile? Quite definitely – YES! Wouldn’t more automation through better tools not be a better route? That would increase efficiency, wouldn’t it?

Look at all the different areas and applications in the graphics, think for a moment of the emergent power of the connectivity, and you will come to the conclusion, that it is not efficiency we need. New worlds are to be explored. Intelligence, intuition, experience and flexibility are what is needed – people – good people – teams. Agile behaviour is needed. And still the reliabillity, safety and security concerns must be met. Do you need to be agile? Well, the ecosystem in which you live and work will be. Remember Darwin?

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About Hans-Jürgen

I am Chief Scientist of Kugler Maag Cie GmbH, an independent, international consulting company, specialising in the improvement of business and product development processes – from analysis, consultancy, and operative implementation to training and coaching. Most customers work in the context of emerging critical systems, such as automotive and transport. These require leading edge techniques to be deployed and organizational readiness for future challenges to be established. I have 35 years of experience in the software determined systems sector. As adjunct Professor, University of Limerick, I was Industry Director of Lero, the Irish Software Engineering Research Centre, which I helped to establish. Previously I was a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, a director of software product and services companies, and Technical Director of the European Software Institute. I was involved in the design of means for industry-wide competence development in the automotive sector, and I conducted the first independent organizational software development capability assessment in the automotive industry in Germany. In my opinion the key competitive factor of the future will be a personal and organisational ability to embrace rapid change of the ecosystem and to proactively and continuously implement sustainable change. I have an M.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Dortmund and an M.A. of Trinity College Dublin. In 1986 I was awarded the IFIP Silver Core.
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