What software practitioners need from academicians and methodologists?

Opinion / Program and Project Management

What software practitioners need from academicians and methodologists?
Prabhakar Karve , Management Consultant, India

There are different software development methodologies, sometimes bitterly fighting with each other. From a practitioners' viewpoint what we need is a simple and flexible framework to make right decisions in a given situation.

Recently I came across an article about different software development methodologies by Roger Smith at archive.devx.com/uml/articles/Smith03/Smith03-1.asp According to him "A software methodology is a set of rules and practices used to craft computer programs. The weight of the process needed on any given project is inversely proportional to the sophistication of the developers working on that project, with less-experienced developers needing heavier-weight processes and vice versa." Another aspect that affects the right weight of the process is speed of change in the environment. Faster the change, lighter the processes require to be able to adapt to the change quickly. In my opinion, software practitioners need a good flexible and extensible structure which will help them to make the right choices appropriate to their context. At the same time, it should not be so heavy, detailed and constraining that they lose the freedom to respond quickly to the dynamics of the environment and situation. Hence rather than trying to define every detail, the academicians and methodologists should provide a simple, flexible and coherent framework with enough guidelines to make right choice given the type of project, market dynamics and the team. Such a framework will help all involved in software development, especially the project managers and the teams to make decisions rather than blindly sticking to one methodology or another. Academicians can come up with the theoretical inputs which practitioners will benefit from. Such inputs will cover mathematical as well as conceptual aspects and may use rigorous or empirical methods to validate them. They need not wait to perfect the inputs but can share even the tentative ones if that makes sense to the practitioners. The practitioners in turn can then use them in real life situations to verify and validate. On the other hand, the academicians could start with common observations from practice and generalize them into meaningful theories which consistently explain the observations. This would require close and collaborative interactions. It is not possible to centrally manage and control it by few. Hence the importance of a compelling vision and capturing hearts and minds of a large software community to make it a self-motivated self-driven activity. After all the proof of the pudding is in eating. By the way, would this apply to the practitioners in any field and not just software development?

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Other Views by this Author: People view of software development | Initiating Change: Whose call is it? | Remember you are a class not an object

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