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Neuma White Paper:
CM: THE NEXT GENERATION - The Business of Software Development
software development business, once the domain of a few advanced technology
companies, is now pervasive. Why? Because software is less costly and easier to
modify than hardware. At first glance
this is obvious: building a software
telephone switch is a lot less costly than the hardware equivalent. But looking more closely, software products
have far more features and are therefore more complex than hardware
products. Software is easier to change,
but this just adds to the level of complexity, especially on the management
side. Software allows us to build products that are more complex.
software development project starts with a concept or proposal, and a
favourable business case, and ends with product retirement. There's a lot of process in between:
Requirements, Project Management, Architecture Definition, Design,
Implementation, Build Management, Change Management, Document Management,
Configuration Management, Problem/Issue Tracking, Test Case Management, Test
Run Management, Customer Tracking.
successful software organization can manage complexity - in both the product
and the process.
Focus on Strong but Simple Architecture
and good architecture are the keys to managing complexity and producing good
product. Good architecture is a result of understanding the problem,
understanding the tools you have to work with, and good design. And there's no substitute for
experience. One important component of
good architecture is how you use your tools.
language, for example, has numerous capabilities. Some are good, some are bad. At Neuma, we tend to be fairly strict about
how the language is to be used. Not just
no "goto" statements, but a whole set of dozens of guidelines that
help our developers produce good product.
loops with conditions at the beginning of the loop, not at the end. It's easier to read and understand.
Always use 0-index origin for arrays, loops, etc., and (start,count) rather than (start,end) pairs.
do arithmetic on pointers and avoid using pointers altogether.
local variables/fields with simple names.
Use full names for global identifiers.
Create single entry, single exit procedures/functions (huge readability
common names for standard or recuring parameters in functions
list goes on. You can use a safe subset of the C language, but without losing
functional capability. The idea is to make all code simpler and
consistent. Simple formatting rules do
not accomplish this goal. But the
overall set of guidelines help to make code maintainable and readable, while
instilling an attitude of good design.
Using a smaller but adequate subset of the language also provides
simplicity. If loops are always going
from 0 to N-1, you don't have to spend a lot of time figuring out boundary
conditions, because they all follow the same pattern. That speeds things up and cuts down on
This is a
very specific example, but if you have even a dozen clear guidelines explained,
it's amazing how much simpler you can make your development environment.
ways to simplify your product include:
Simplify the technology you use. Don't
let everyone pick their own scripting language, or programming language.
Perform code reviews so that you have fewer problems flowing through your
product life cycle. Also review against
design rules that help your Configuration Management rather than hinder it.
Instead of variant builds, support run-time configuration of a more generic
but a few examples that will have significant effects on your product
architecture. When it comes down to it,
a dozen or two little things that improve your software by 1% or 2% each, can
have a significant overall effect.
- A Reward, not a Burden
I love it
when developers come to me and tell me that they couldn't do their job without
the ALM/CM tools and processes. You'd
expect that from CM managers, but often CM is seen as an overhead by
developers. And grant it, you'll never hear this until you take away their
environment. But if you give them benefits such as:
Change-based check-in, differencing, merging and promotion
Ability to check-in source code when the developer is ready (vs. when the build
manager is ready)
lists that eliminate any extra effort to provide traceability
review of tasks accomplished over the past months and years
Access to all the product information they need in a single place
Elimination of tagging and minimizing of branching/merging.
ways to look for outstanding problems or to identify what has been done in the
Ability to automatically augment files with source history from the CM
Ability to do on-line code reviews of a completed change package with just one
or two mouse clicks.
these things simplify the life of a developer.
ALM/CM tools should provide most of these functions, and more. Again, it's not one thing, but a lot of
little things (or not so little things) that add up to provide significant
benefits and help to reduce complexity.
real sign that they've got a good process and good tools to support them. Good management tools gather accurate and
timely data that reflect your processes.
Good processes, when supported by good ALM/CM tools, help to ensure
productivity and lower administrative overhead.
The two work hand in hand.
tools and processes should be the nervous system of your product development,
not a burden. Up-to-date status
information, high-level impact analysis, good communication, instant
traceability - these are a few of the benefits when tools and processes are
well implemented. I've mentioned them
before, but some of the key ingredients of such environments are:
Integrated solutions with good traceability
strategies that minimize branching, merging and labeling
Change management rather than file management
availability, high reliability tools with low administration
that can be easily customized to your processes rather than vice versa
Customer Comes First
software development business demands that we know our customer. Whether it's a single contractor, an internal
customer or a market segment, whether it's a unified voice or an assortment of
variant requirements. We need to
understand the customer. Many common mistakes
are made here:
fully understanding the customer requirements
understanding the impact of your changes, especially on the customer
Inability to tell your customer how a new release will affect their operations
knowing what version each customer has installed
focusing on the customer first
of this, we'll see a stronger move from CM tools to wider ALM tools. And if the
tools are well integrated, developers will start to gain an appreciation for the
customer and will start to develop a customer centric view. Then everyone will be in the business of
supporting the customer.
end, it is the flexibility of software that the customer likes. If a good job is done on architecture and
process implementations, the flexibility can be realized without exponential
costs due to product complexity.
Joe Farah is the President and CEO of Neuma Technology . Prior to co-founding Neuma in 1990 and directing the development of CM+, Joe was Director of Software Architecture and Technology at Mitel, and in the 1970s a Development Manager at Nortel (Bell-Northern Research) where he developed the Program Library System (PLS) still heavily in use by Nortel's largest projects. A software developer since the late 1960s, Joe holds a B.A.Sc. degree in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto. You can contact Joe by email at email@example.com