Applying the construction industry analogy to software development

From Slashdot – Is Your Development Project a Sinking Ship?

Projects fails because no one ever learns (Score:5, Insightful)
by Ckwop (707653) * <2WKJb6O@ckwop.me.uk> on Tuesday January 04, @04:37PM (#11257304)
(http://www.ckwop.me.uk/)

It’s as simple as that unfortuantely – we *never* learn from our mistakes. Over the last thirty years every system we can dream of has been built from nuclear power plant control system to stock market analysis systems.

Yet we keep playing the buzzword bingo with our new systems, e.g. “Extreme programming”, we still keep promise a schedule we can’t keep to, we still allow the customer to shift requirement much later in the project than should be allowed, management still don’t have enough dialog with the programmers on the ground floor, the list goes on..

Wake up! We’re not special.. the construction industry has been doing huge projects of equal complexity for centuries. Get past your intellectual snobbery and start working together..

Simon.

Re:Projects fails because no one ever learns (Score:4, Interesting)
by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday January 04, @04:51PM (#11257485)
(Last Journal: Tuesday March 22, @09:08PM)

“Wake up! We’re not special.. the construction industry has been doing huge projects of equal complexity for centuries. Get past your intellectual snobbery and start working together..”

Umm no they have not. Construction is one of the slowest to change industries on the planet. Take a hotel It is really just room after room. You design one room and then multiply that out to make a floor. Then you stack the floors and you have a building.
The key is standardized everything. Look at your average home. It is still built out of sticks or concrete blocks. Very little has changed in a very long time. The latest thing is metal studs but it took decades for them to become commonplace in homes. Very little changes and very little in really innovative.
And if you think that building projects are always on time and on budget…. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
Not on your life.

Re:Projects fails because no one ever learns (Score:4, Insightful)
by VeriTea (795384) on Tuesday January 04, @05:16PM (#11257769)
(Last Journal: Saturday July 10, @03:06PM)

I would repeat after you, but what would I gain by repeating something that isn’t true?

Ok, there is a lot of truth there, but to dismiss the analogy out of hand is to miss some very important lessons. My dad manages large-scale construction projects so I know a little bit about the industry.

Some lessons that may relate
1. The team that designs a project is always different from the team that constructs the project. They are seldom even from the same company. The client gets to arbitrate between the two when conflicts come up.

2. Many projects are extensively estimated after design, but before construction by the constructor (who has much more experience and motivation to accurately assess project costs then the designing company).

3. Design firms, and construction firms often specialize in very specific types of buildings (i.e. one company may construct only clean-room facilities, another company designs only bridges, etc.). When companies take on specialized projects that they have no institutional experience with, they often fail spectacularly.

4. The designing company divides the project design documents into known specialties. Metalwork, brickwork, glasswork, electrical work, etc. There are hundreds of catagories, and the design documents break out the project into those standard catagories. When the construction company builds the project, they hire subcontractors to perform work in each specialty. The company that does the glasswork has lots of experience with glasswork. The company doing roofing has lots of experience with roofing, etc.

5. Changing the design in mid-construction (which always happens) cost big bucks. No exceptions.

There are more, but I’m bored with this post so I’ll stop now.

“Software Engineering” is not yet “Engineering” (Score:4, Interesting)
by fyrie (604735) on Tuesday January 04, @05:34PM (#11257974)

Here is a pretty good paper by Mary Shaw explaining why software is not yet an engineering discipline (IEEE).
http://www.sce.carleton.ca/faculty/ajila/4106-5006/Prospect%20Eng%20Soft.pdf/ [carleton.ca]

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Comments are closed.