Jacobson gives us the opportunity to grow up.

I checked the date. It was two days too late to be an April 1st stunt. So then I read the article title again, to see if I was misreading it: Enough of Processes: Let’s Do Practices (Part I), by [tag]Ivar Jacobson[/tag]. Those who never had to work alongside an army of overpaid Rational Unified Process ([tag]RUP[/tag]) consultants may not be aware that this last great heavyweight process was the brainchild of Ivan Jacobson, Grady Booch and Jim Rumbaugh – collectively known as the Three Amigos.

Jacobson has been repositioning himself for some time now, admitting (to his credit) that RUP got too big. I admire people who can change their minds when presented with evidence that they were wrong. I also admire people who have the chutzpah to get back up after a fall, dust themselves off, and re-enter the fray. That’s exactly what Jacobson is doing with his new line in ‘[tag]EssUP[/tag]’ (Essential Unified Process), and this re-badging of Process as Practices. But while I’ll take my hat off to the guy, I don’t feel inclined to open any purse-strings.

If you read the above-linked essay, you will find Jacobson railing against the kind of problems that he and his Amigos helped to institutionalize. But be aware that too much irony in your diet can make you feel ill. The coining of terms like EssWork and The Problem of Denied Commonality would be hard enough to take – they’re made worse when they appear alongside complaints like this:

Everyone is looking for a silver bullet. People aren’t really interested in things that have proven their worth over time. They are just interested in what’s new and fashionable, even if it is the same old thing rebranded with trendy jargon and acronyms.

If this were written by anyone else, it would be merely banal. That it is written by Jacobson adds an edge of brazenness that should act like smelling salts for any slumbering sense of skepticism.

So why should we even be talking about Jacobson? Surely this is all good publicity for his latest wheeze? Well I think that this essay is providing us, the software development community – and especially architects and technical management – with an excellent opportunity. He is giving us the chance to demonstrate that we have learned something over the last 10 years. That we have grown up a little. That we don’t need to run around like a bunch of adolescent drama queens looking for meaning, wisdom and the Next Big Thing. That collectively we can recognize the goose-bumped bare backside of an emperor when we see it. That we can scan the contents of his essay, mentally bin it, and get back to work.

  1. #1 by Patrick on April 7, 2007 - 11:28 pm

    Brendon, I think to be fair one should mention that the RUP authors have always said that RUP was a framework that needed to be adopted to whatever the requirements of the project. They’ve also stated time and again that the discipline’s workflows are *basic* workflows, and that rarely every activity needed to be worked, nor is every artifact to be completed in all projects. Also, from day 1, the RUP stated that what’s most important is to build executable software rather than to document every step of the way. However, interestingly enough, organisations wouldn’t listen, and started to follow every single step the RUP ever described, getting overwhelmed by so much process overdose. Probably, with hindsight, it was a blunder to call UP a process. It should have been Unified Practices.

    So in essense, IMHO Jacobson hasn’t really come up with a new concept, rather he’s finally found another approach where people would listen. But the meaning of what he says seems mostly unchanged.

  2. #2 by Brendan Lawlor on April 8, 2007 - 11:37 am

    Hi Patrick,
    I think that it’s fair and reasonable to remind readers of that fact. You are correct: the mantra of RUP was that it could (and should) be tailored to whatever the organization needed. But there were at least three contradictions from within the RUP camp itself, which cannot be blamed on those who chose to use it.

    1) RUP was heavily marketed to high-level management of software development companies, rather than software developers, which was bound to lead to the misapplication of the process. They did this, I believe, in order to sell in the raft of Rational products that supported RUP.

    2) If their approach was all about working software then they should have de-emphasized UML instead of making it the central mode of expression.

    3) Even if they insisted that the process could be tailored and cut right down to basics where necessary, it was still attempting to be Universal. In otherwords, they wanted to have their cake and eat it. If there is one thing that we can say that we have learned from the experience, it is that there is no universal process. There is even no universal set of practices. There are perhaps some basic principles for example quality, productivity, accuracy, stability. Fulfilling these principles can require very different approaches in different companies and at different times.

    I agree entirely that Jacobson has not come up with any new concepts. In fact this is entirely my point. He is skimming from the top of the practices that have proven succesful in many companies, which he is now renaming and trying to hawk as universally applicable. He is offering a mental crutch for companies that don’t want to think for themselves.

  3. #3 by Brendan Lally on April 29, 2007 - 3:25 am

    i think it just snowballed over time and went tumbling faster n faster down that hill.

    The consultants (especially the big boys) found it an easy gravy train that would magically get all those (of their own making 🙂 delayed projects back on track and ensure that the ‘next’ project would be managed soooo much better. Guess what the Holy Grail didn’t arrive but sure brought lots of moula 2 their doors.

    Heh! we’ll just wait until the next magic solution (SOA BPEL TDD BDD CI …. = x) and the companys will believe in that 4 awhile (after a few success stories and some articles in CIO, Business Week etc…) — u wait long enough and u c the same old stuff getting a new facelift

    Give me some bright engineers and common sense and some space….


  4. #4 by Brendan Lawlor on April 30, 2007 - 1:23 pm

    Give me some bright engineers and common sense and some space….

    Amen to that.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Process is mostly about getting the hell out of the way of good engineers.

    Easier said than done, of course.

  5. #5 by Tad Anderson on June 21, 2007 - 1:46 am

    We got sick of waiting for some actual tools to be completed and decided EssUP with TFS is OUT, and ICONIX with SPARX is IN…


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