CMMI and Agile Blog

August 18, 2014

A Slightly Different Way to Think About the SEMAT Vision and the Essence Framework

In last week’s blog I asked readers to consider providing feedback as to whether the software community needs a framework that fits the needs of the framework vision described in my 15 Fundamentals book.   Tom Gilb replied by referring to his comprehensive handbook on “Competitive Engineering” (a book of about 450 pages).  I have read a good deal of Tom’s book and find value in it.

I have also read much of Scott Ambler and Mark Lines’ “Disciplined Agile Delivery” book (about 550 pages), and I have read Barry Boehm, Rich Turner and their co-author’s recent book, “The Incremental Commitment Spiral Model” (about 240 pages), and going back a little further in time, I have read multiple times Watts Humphrey’s “A Discipline for Software Engineering” book (almost 800 pages).   In all of these books I have found useful ideas and great value. 

Right now I have two clients I am helping who have very different situations, but need similar help related to figuring out the right practices for their organization to keep them competitive in today’s rapidly changing and demanding world. 

I, as a consultant, need to find the time to read books, like those mentioned, because I need to keep up with the latest thinking of the best thinkers in the field of software engineering so I can provide the best advice to my clients when asked. 

In reading each of the books mentioned above I observed useful new ideas and/or innovative techniques, but I have also found certain ideas that I interpret as essentially similar to ideas I already know and understand.    So in the interest of time-management– and getting the most value out of my “new book reading time”–I read books with a filter on. 

My filter seeks out the strengths of each book in terms of what I perceive as new and potentially useful that I can add to my current knowledge base.    I then make conscious mental notes allowing me to rapidly recall each new idea or innovative technique when I observe a client situation where the new idea could be of benefit. 

This allows me at the right time as a consultant to stop and say to my client:

“Hey I think you should take a look at … [fill in one of those books, chapters, ideas/ innovate techniques here]… because I think this idea or technique could really benefit you given the problem I see that you are currently facing.” 

Keeping up with the latest thinking of our best software engineering thinkers is something I must do because I am a software process professional and this is what keeps me competitive in my own business.

My clients come to me because they don’t have the time to do this themselves, and they don’t have the funding in today’s competitive world to keep their staff current on all the latest thinking in software engineering.  I thus provide value they need that they don’t have inside their own organization.  This keeps my business viable. 

But what if there was a way for software practitioners— programmers, analysts, testers, managers—who are actually working on real software projects facing real challenges every day to quickly access and use the strengths and new ideas of these great software engineering thinker’s without having to read hundreds and hundreds of pages as I do to keep my business thriving? 

While I personally look forward to reading great new books on new approaches to help with the challenges of software engineering, most real practitioners just don’t have the time to devote to this activity. 

So– as I expressed in my response to Tom Gilb on my blog last week– what if we could find a way to make the strengths of Tom’s “Competitive Engineering” handbook more easily accessible to the practitioners who need help every day?  And taking this idea a bit further, what if we could find a way to do the same for Scott Ambler, Barry  Boehm, Watts Humphrey’s and all the other great software engineering thinkers work so that practitioner’s could quickly see and access the strengths of each,  compare  them, and then make logical decisions without needing to devote hundred’s of hours digesting hundred’s of pages of books?

Obviously, we would need to be careful how such a framework was implemented because any simplification of serious thought-provoking work could always be open for criticism.   But on the other hand, we know as George Box has pointed out, “all models are wrong, some are useful.” 

So do you think such a framework might be useful to the software engineering community? 

What I am suggesting here may be a slightly different way to think about the current vision of SEMAT and the Essence framework, but in a sense this isn’t far from what SEMAT is trying to do. 

The SEMAT community envisions an open marketplace of software aids (practices, patterns, methods, hints, and so on…)  where software practitioners can easily see what is new, compare it to what they currently are using, and make effective and timely decisions that can help their software endeavors today based on their own specific circumstances. 

I would love to hear what you think.  Does the software engineering community need a framework that fits this vision?

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2 Comments »

  1. The idea of a common taxonomy is a good idea.
    while there are so many models and even more interpretations of these models, the intentions of these models are to deliver customer value, consistently.
    to that extent, keeping the meta model simple and model neutral will be very useful

    Comment by Sivaguru S. — August 22, 2014 @ 12:32 pm | Reply


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