Scrums of another sort.

I spent much of my childhood in South Africa, and I was a really awful rugby player. I was neither big enough to be any good, nor fast enough to get out the way of those who were. As soon as I could, I became the linesman and team photographer.

The term scrum, then, creates an terrifying flashback to lying in a muddy field with about 15 heavy people on my head. At SAP, though it is part of some of the change that’s happening in our development processes here in starship enterprisey walldorf and across the development centres around the world.  Here is an article from SAPINFO aimed at a non techie (like me) audience.

Cote from Redmonk has posted about enterprise scrum.  It seems there is controversy in the world of scruming techniques.

I’m not a developer, but what my dev mates tell me is the model works well for smallish, shortish projects. It really focuses on delivering on what you said you were going to deliver on. Like in a real scrum, it is impossible to hide. The take up internally has been excellent, and it is working. 

Another thing that is going on here is six-sigma. There is alot of black belt training and sigma stuff on the go.  We have a long way to go until we are like a GE engineering division, but things are happening.  I also read today in the employee magazine that the number of reported help desk messages is down, despite a significant increase in customer numbers and go lives.

UK parliamentary hearings are often very boring, but sometimes they produce gems. This one from Professor Thomas from Oxford reminds me that this industry is really just getting going…They are discussing the why many government IT projects fail.

 We are as an industry very much in the early stages. The industry is only 50 years old. If you compare that with civil engineering, which is several thousand years old, we are tackling some of the most complex engineering designs and building some of the most complex engineering systems that the world has ever seen, essentially using craft technology. If you looked at the methods that are employed in most companies you would come to the conclusion that actually IT system development is a fashion business, not an engineering business, because they jump from one methodology to another year after year so long as it has a whizzy name, “Agile this” or “Intensive that”. The underlying engineering disciplines that every mature engineering discipline has learnt it needs to use in order to be able to show that the system it is building has the required properties have not yet been employed in software and systems engineering, and that is at the heart of why these things do not work.

No wonder the SAP CEO is really pushing the idea of the industrialization of the software development process. Better code comes through better processes. Standardisation, automation and the division of labour. It has driven productivity improvement in almost every other industry and profession, and he is convinced it will do the same here.


6 thoughts on “Scrums of another sort.”

  1. Thanks for linking to my blog on Six Sigma. You know SAP is just a wonderful company. Half the time you are defensive things are wonderful. The other half you do things to fix what you deny.

    Whether it is Six Sigma or CMM or someting else the s/w industry uniqely creates and measures itself by, it is goodness. Also exoect more from your ecosystem – quit making excuses for them as I wrote here and invoked one of the fathers of industrialization – Frederick Taylor.

    And just as improtant – pass those efficiencies on to customers…may be I am pushing my luck now -)

  2. I like most of what you have said here, but I take strong exception to one tiny, but significant part: “the division of labour”. There is some part of this that is necessary, but it is this point that has been taken far too far and lead to excessive bureaucracy and distrust in organizations. Most of the truly incredible organizations (Toyota is a great example) have low levels of specialization. Almost anyone can do almost any job. There is a deliberate effort on the part of management to reward people not on their level of expertise in a specialist area, but rather based on how many different jobs they can perform.

  3. Mishkin,
    I think the software industry needs to think long and hard about the software profession. In medicine, law, engineering, architecture, people specialise. I think this is what the software industry needs too. even in really creative industries like advertising, people specialise. But the best specialists still get the big picture.

  4. Pingback: Getting Technical

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