Software Quality Insights


June 11, 2010  4:02 PM

IBM Innovate: End of life for the waterfall methodology?

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Innovate 2010 wrapped up today with a keynote from Walker Royce focusing on “econometrics that are core to continuous improvement.”

Royce’s message was clearly one of “breakthrough agility,” speaking out against the waterfall approach which he labeled as “geriatric.”  He promoted integration test before unit test claiming that this would give teams the ability to catch “malignant errors early in the cycle,” saying that key metrics such as defects, scrap and rework were improved when using agile methods rather than conventional approaches.

To be honest, I was surprised that IBM took such a strong and public stance against the traditional waterfall methodology. I attended a Tuesday breakout session, “Quality in the Trenches Panel: Traditional? Agile? Something Else?” with Terry Quatrani and Scott Ambler, and in that session, too, the underlying message was clearly one that screamed “agile is the better approach.” The debate was pure tongue-in-cheek with Ambler in suit and tie arguing the waterfall approach and Quatrani with Mickey Mouse ears and casual dress arguing for agile, much in the style of Mac vs. PC commercials. However, the humor was clearly mocking the waterfall approach as an approach riddled with inefficient processes and an over-emphasis on documentation and lack of collaboration.

Though I knew a lot of agile was going on within IBM, with Big Blue having more of a suit-and-tie reputation, it surprised me that their message was not just pro-agile, but anti-waterfall.

At the keynote, Tim Lyons of Nationwide spoke about his implementation of an agile methodology.
“We thought we had standardized practices, but when we applied metrics they weren’t as standardized as we thought. Metrics provided the insights to dive down into multiple levels of standardizations and truly get into best practices,” said Lyons.

Nationwide adopted an onshore agile, lean model, operating with CMMI level 3 team and found it more cost-effective than an offshoring model.

Agile and CMMI combined? That was something I hadn’t expected to hear. Royce confirmed I was not alone in this viewpoint when he got back up on stage and said, “Many people think they’re opposing, but they can be used together.”

CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) is a model that helps organizations attain continuous improvement of their software development processes. My experience with CMMI is that it’s quite rigid, requiring thorough documentation of standardized, repeatable processes. Agile is adaptable. The Agile Manifesto promotes “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “Working software over comprehensive documentation.” With CMMI being documentation-heavy with strict adherence to process, I have a hard time imagining this being used in a purely agile environment which promotes adaptability and change. Nevertheless, Nationwide is using both and seeing positive results.

What do you think? Are agile and CMMI a good mix or are they opposing in nature? And what about waterfall? Is the methodology dying?

June 10, 2010  12:55 PM

IBM Innovate: Dean Kamen inspires crowd to give back to community

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Though there have been many great speakers at the IBM Innovate conference this week, I’d give Dean Kamen, who spoke at this morning’s keynote, the prize for being the most inspirational. Kamen is the owner of a company called DEKA, credited with a number of life-changing inventions, many in the health-care field, including an insulin pump, a mobile dialysis machine, and the iBOT — an all-terrain wheelchair that will allow owners to go up and down stairs and rise up so that they can be eye-level with those who are standing.  (It was technology from the iBOT, by the way, that was used in an invention which Kamen is probably best known for — the Segway.) Kamen also spoke of the advanced prosthetic arm that DEKA developed, with funding from The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for veterans, some of whom have lost both arms.

Kamen stressed the amount of software included in devices and joked that when dealing with medical products, you can’t afford to get The Blue Screen of Death! The importance of software quality is underscored in medical devices and quality of embedded software and “systems of systems” has been a common theme throughout the conference this week.

Kamen had a very humble demeanor as he described his hopes for a better world.  He gets a laugh from the crowd in this video clip as he tells us “In my company, if I want people to listen to me speak, I have to pay them.”

Kamen described projects to purify water and provide power to under-developed communities. What he seemed most passionate about was his commitment to FIRST(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization which encourages the worlds’ youth, particularly girls and minorities, to pursue education in science and education. Kamen described the history of FIRST, telling us it started with the need to have a “Shaquille O’Neal of science and technology” rather than having kids think of those who like science as crazy frizzy-haired nerds. With support from the White House, the program started in 1992 in a New Hampshire gym. When it got too big for the gym, the venue was moved to Epcot, from there to the Houston Astrodome and now is held in the Georgia Dome with participation from over 150,000 kids from around the world. Kamen relays the story of George W. Bush proclaiming, much to Kamen’s embarrassment, “This is just like WWF, but for smart people.” The saying caught on, and turned out to be fantastic marketing slogan for the organization.

Kamen reminded us of a quote by William Butler Yeats: “Education is not filling a pail… it is lighting a fire.”

His talk ended with a plea to the group, ” The technical community has to have a voice in the hearts and minds of kids.”

Based on the applause and standing ovation, I’d say he touched the hearts and minds of the audience and inspired us to find ways that we can help our kids develop the skills to better the world.


June 9, 2010  8:12 PM

Grady Booch: Cloud computing is like virtualization on steroids

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Grady Booch’s title at IBM is Chief Scientist of Software Engineering which, he says, “basically means I get to do what I feel like doing with software engineering.”  IBM acquired Rational Software in 2003, where Booch was working as Chief Scientist. Whatever his title, he’s considered somewhat of a “rock star” among software engineers. I was tempted to ask for his autograph when I had the opportunity to speak with him at the IBM Innovate conference this week, but resisted “groupie behavior.” Booch is best known for his work, along with Ivar Jacobson and James Rumbaugh, on developing the Unified Modeling Language (UML). He’s also quite well known for his work on design patterns and has authored several books on UML and object oriented design and analysis.

Though he’s an icon in the world of software development, he chats easily with the crowd at the Innovate conference, with a laid-back smile that sets people at ease.

In this video clip, Booch gives his thoughts about cloud computing and what he sees as future trends in this space.

Booch was one of the speakers at this morning’s keynote at the conference. The title of the presentation was “Imagine!” and included the many exciting opportunities for innovation that are being explored at IBM.  More predictive weather forecasting, improvements in DNA sequencing, and the use of Zinsight were just a few of the projects Booch mentioned.  Booch described the use of Second Life to allow virtual teams to collaborate and demonstrated with a short video of avatars working in cyberspace on an agile project.

I didn’t find the video that Booch showed at the keynote on YouTube, but I was pleased to find a series called “Rational is Agile,” including this video in which you will find the avatars of Matt Holitza, Scott Ambler and Grady Booch.


June 9, 2010  6:44 PM

IBM Innovate: Plans for “smart city” Babcock Ranch

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The theme of IBM’s Innovate 2010 conference has been “building a smarter planet.”  Building a smarter planet starts with building a smarter city – literally! Plans are underway to build the world’s first fully solar-powered city. IBM announced on June 7th a partnership with Kitson & Partners to develop Babcock Ranch in Southwest Florida using IBM Rational Focal Point software to coordinate and manage the design of the city.

The short video of the city of tomorrow shows a visionary lifestyle focused on high quality of life and powered completely by solar energy. Syd Kitson described this “system of systems” which would emphasize the interconnectedness of education, fitness and wellness, transportation and energy efficiency throughout the entire community, using innovations in software technology. It was only fitting that this modern-day Tomorrowland was presented at the Innovate conference held at the Disneyworld Dolphin Resort.

I got a chance to sit down with the emcee of the Innovate conference, IBM’s Scott Hebner, along with Syd Kitson and Richard Brockway from Kitson & Partners, to talk more about Babcock Ranch.

When I asked about the timeline of the project, Kitson replied, “We expect that we’re going to start construction next year. Right now we’re in the middle of engineering. We’re going to start with jobs. We’re working with several companies that we’re hoping will move into Babcock Ranch. If we have 1000+ employees that’s 800-900 homes and then you start to build a community.”


June 9, 2010  12:11 PM

Scott Ambler at IBM Innovate: Scaling in Agile

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We spoke with Scott Ambler last week about his thoughts on organizational acceptance of agile.  Today, I was able to speak with him again, this time, in person, at the IBM Innovate 2010 conference.

Ambler is the chief methodologist for agile and lean for IBM Rational. He goes around the world helping organizations understand agile and lean and how to scale. “We’ve been working on the IBM agility  scaling model, the goal of which is to put projects in a context from a scaling point of view. If you want to be effective you need to tailor your processes and tools to reflect the situation you find yourself in.  Even simple practices like daily standup meetings will be very different if you’re a small team, large team, distributed team or regulated team so part of our observation is that there are several scaling factors,”  said Ambler

We mentioned agility within a “system of systems,” a phrase that was used often in the morning’s keynote presentations. Complexity can be a significant scaling factor. If you understand the context you can see that some of the mainstream agile advice may not work, warned Ambler.

When I asked about best practices of distributed agile teams, Ambler said that the majority of agile teams have some aspects of distribution. He said teams need to start using different types of tools and communication practices when they’re distributed. They may organize their teams differently. Each individual subteam will have their own product owners and architecture owners who will need to coordinate.

I asked Ambler about the difference in agile methodologies. “The important thing is to do the right thing for your situation.”

“But how do they know which is the right methodology?” I persisted.

“There are no silver bullets. You need to know what you’re doing,” Ambler said. He recommended that organizations do the research and find help from experienced consultants, making sure they are asking the right questions of the consultants.

In this video, Ambler talks about trends with agile including scaling and integrated systems.


June 9, 2010  12:10 PM

Innovate 2010 Keynote: Software defines success of every business

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Wow! Innovate 2010 opened up with entertainment from Natually 7 and several speakers who inspired the audience of approximately 4000 people, to take innovation seriously.

Author of Gadget Nation Steve Greenberg was the first speaker who talked a bit about the difference between invention and innovation. “To invent is to be the originator. To innovate is to make changes to something established.” Greenberg entertained us with stories of crazy gadgets and told us that to be successful, you need “competitive differentiation.” 

Following Greenberg, Vice President, Marketing and Strategy, IBM Rational software, Scott Hebner introduced  a theme that prevailed with all the speakers: the complexity of integrated software systems creating a “system of systems” linked by the “invisible thread” of software.  “We need to continuously improve collaboration across the solution delivery lifecycle,” Hebner said.

Dr. Danny Sabbah. General Manager, IBM Rational software, spoke next about “econometrics” and the importance for businesses to “balance economic, social and environment objectives.” He tells us, “the world is becoming more interconnected, more instrumented and more intelligent.  In fact, it will be 10x more instrumented in a short five-year period to more than one trillion connected devices. The world is becoming smarter. Software is pervasive. It is the building block of smarter products and services. Software is becoming the invisible thread that enables what we refer to as “system of sytems.”

Several examples were given of “smart systems.” Sabbah talked about intelligent sytems in the health care industry. He described implantable heart defibrillators that are being used to monitor cardiac response for patients with critical heart conditions.  If medical attention is needed, an abulance is alerted and medical care must be administered immediately. The national standard is a four-minute response time for 90% of all emergencies.  A response rate of less than five minutes doubles the chances of patient survival. Software systems are used to help with prioritization, ambulance queueing, decision support, notification, traffic systems to avoid. route optimization with instant integration with local traffic.  A typical ambulance uses software with approximately 50 million lines of code and 10,000 interfaces that help to track, update, test, deploy and maintain the functions needed for this system. And this is just one system of many within health care that is part of a system of systems.

Robert LeBlanc, Senior Vice President, IBM Middleware, IBM Software Group, rounded out the opening keynote by talking about how cloud computing was being used as an IT delivery model, reducing costs and improving efficiency with service delivery.  “Every single industry is going to be impacted by the change that’s going on. Software is becoming the fundamental driver in every single industry. Think about the grid.  Think about how we’ve delivered power for the last 50 years. It hasn’t fundamentally changed. And now we’re starting to see a change in the use of power grids. Every industry’s going to change.”


June 8, 2010  8:47 PM

Jack Danahy at IBM Innovate: Changes in AppScan part of Secure by Design announcement

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IBM Innovate has given me all kinds of opportunities to speak with IBM’s top execs and hear the latest news and announcements in their Rational product line. I spoke today with Jack Danahy, Security Executive Office for the Office of the CTO, Rational at IBM.

Danahy was the original founder and CEO of Ounce Labs, sold to IBM in July of 2009. The software developed at Ounce Labs provided the static analysis, “testing from the inside.”

Danahy gave me a bit of history of application security testing to explain the acquisition of Ounce Labs and the value or Rational’s AppScan product to the customer. “Security has always been a niche,” said Danahy. In the Internet’s early years firewalls were used for security. The applications had to step up and test for security. They looked for vulnerabilities and exposures. There are a limited number of folks who are really good at that. And there weren’t enough “good at security personel”  to cover everything.  Watchfire was acquired IBM Rational portfolio a few years ago and was very thorough in testing as a hacker would, “from the outside,” Danahy explained.

Customers want to know the system is configured the right way and not vulnerable to external threats from the outside.  They also want to see the source code and find security gaps that can be addressed earlier in the development lifecycle.  “The capacity to look at the software from the inside out and from the outside in” provides the most value for the customer giving them a unique perspective.

In this video, Danahy announces Rational AppScan Source Edition that will enable customers to be able to go to one place for security test results.  IBM is also talking about strategies that will allow customers’ applications to be “secure by design.”

The updates to AppScan was one of four anouncements that was made by IBM today related to their “secure by design” initiative.  IBM also announced enhancements to Tivoli Access Management, a Source Code Assessment Service and a Secure Engineering Framework.


June 7, 2010  8:14 PM

Mainsoft announces Social Connector for Rational Team Concert

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Collaboration and social networking tools are growing by leaps and bounds, moving beyond social applications and into the business world. Mainsoft’s Social Connector product, announced June 7th in Orlando, brings many of the social networking functions to the enterprise by “connecting” IBM Rational Team Concert and IBM Lotus Connections. 

I spoke to Yaacov Cohen, CEO of Mainsoft, and Dekel Cohen, Director of R&D at Mainsoft, who gave me a demo of Social Connector. “It leverages the power of social software in a business context and it speeds up the learning curve of people joining a new project, making people more collaborative and more efficient,” said Yaacov.

Dekel gave us a demo showing how a community can be formed around a project. Features of Social Connector allow for searching for blogs, experts, bookmarks and other resources that might be useful on a project. I asked Cohen about security. I was unclear whether or not these communities were extended beyond the enterprise. Cohen answered that “the primary clients are IBM customers who are using both Rational and Lotus connections. But we also want to give a feel to all Rational developers. Even if they don’t have Lotus connections within the enterprise, they can open an account on My developerWorks for free and then they have access to wikis, communities and activities without making any up-front investment.” I asked if that would be a security concern. “You can open a private community so you’re not necessarily exposed,” Dekel answered.

Yaacov and Dekel demoed various integration points between Rational and Lotus. One example is the ability to publish Rational Team Concert work items as Lotus Connections Activities. Status updates will be published to the project community, allowing for easier communication and collaboration between all stakeholders. 

I asked whether Social Connector would be packaged with the IBM offerings. Yaacov described the software as a “joint venture…This is done with a very tight partnership with IBM,” he said.

More about Mainsoft along with a demo of Social Connectior can be found here.


June 7, 2010  8:04 PM

IBM Innovate 2010 off to a festive start

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

Innovate 2010 began today with a welcome reception for the expected 4000 attendees. The packed ballroom included a live band, karaoke, plenty of food, drinks and people. I spoke with several of the attendees, asking what they hoped to get out of the conference. Most of the IBM’ers were here with plans to gather “voice of the customer” feedback from their Rational clients. Others are here to present or to learn. With over 350 sessions over the next four days, there will plenty of options.

Terry Quatrani (TQ), Regional Content Manager for the conference covering all the technical content, was sporting a uniquely decorated hat, complete with feathers, glitter and topped with a globe. She said she comes every year with a different hat, representing the theme of the conference. This year’s theme? Let’s build a smarter planet.

I spoke with Quatrani about the Rational product, first asking her how many products it included. An anonymous eavesdropper nearby joked, “Two million.” TQ couldn’t answer an exact number, but guessed around 50. I checked the Rational Website later and can understand why it would be hard to answer this question. Many of the products come in various flavors so it might be difficult to know exactly how to count them.

“Of those, how many are available on the Jazz platform?” I asked. Jazz is IBM Rational’s new technology that provides a framework for collaboration and integration of various Rational tools. The anonymous onlooker informed me that I had the terminology wrong. “The proper term is jazzified,” he said, and the answer to the question is “only three,” he said holding up three fingers, playfully expressing impatience. Quatrani said she thought there were more and said that there were “more and more coming.”  As a matter of fact, it appears five products have been “jazzified.” According to IBM Rational’s Website: “IBM Rational Team Concert™, Rational Quality Manager, Rational Requirements Composer, Rational Asset Manager and Rational Insight are the first offerings built on or significantly refactored for the Jazz platform.”

Quatrani said that IBM uses a Measured Capability Improvement Framework (MCIF) model to help understand the customer’s pain points. “We give [customers] the Lego pieces to put together a solution that will solve their problem,” she said.

Quatrani will be presenting “Writing Good Use Cases” on Monday and on a panel with Scott Ambler on Tuesday called “Quality in the Trenches Panel: Traditional? Agile? Something Else?” She asked Ambler, a long-time agile proponent, to take the traditional viewpoint on the panel, she tells me with a mischievous smile. It should prove interesting!


June 7, 2010  3:36 PM

Exploring Kanban, agile development’s new rising star

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Kanban, a concept related to lean, recently.  At the agile ALM conference I attended last month there was a lot of talk about lean methodologies, and Kanban has been a heavily-discussed topic at the last three Boulder Agile Software User Group (BASUG) meetings I’ve attended. So, what’s the dish on this newly-popular approach?

Jim Reed, organizer and leader of the BASUG, shed light on Kanban terminology and concepts in an in-depth presentation during a recent BASUG meeting.

Kanban is a concept related to lean methodologies which originated in manufacturing. However, these concepts are being applied more and more in software development environments. Kanban is a Japanese word meaning “signboard.”  A Kanban Board is a visual display in which the movement of objects, in the case of a development project, user story cards, will trigger action. The idea is that there’s continuous flow as the objects are moved across the board to completion.

Kanban is considered an agile methodology, though more adaptive than most. In other words, there aren’t a lot of rules. A slide from the presentation  showed the differences in agile methodologies. Rational Unified Process (RUP), with over 120 rules, was considered the most prescriptive. XP followed with 13 rules. Scrum was next on the adaptive scale with nine rules. Kanban was considered the most adaptive with only three rules:

  • Visualize the Workflow
  • Limit Work-in-Progress (WIP)
  • Measure and Optimize Lead Time

Reed described an example of a development project in which the Kanban board was split into the following groupings:

  • Backlog
  • Selected
  • Develop
  • Deploy
  • Live!

The Backlog holds all the stories, but these are prioritized and moved first into the Selected bucket which triggers action. If the Work in Progress (WIP) Limit is set to two, then there should be no more than two stories in any of the groups in which work is being done.  If a bottleneck occurs in one of the groups, then process rework should be done to alleviate that bottleneck rather than continuing work in earlier phases. This helps to identify bottlenecks and leads to optimization of the whole value chain.

Todd Sheridan from Rally Software, now immersed as a “Scrum Master” at Rally using Kanban,  was a voice of experience at the meeting,   I asked if his group was mixing Scrum and Kanban, and he said they were using pure Kanban, but that many of the concepts and roles from Scrum carried over. He is acting in the same capacity as a Scrum Master; since there is not a defined role or term in Kanban, they continue to use that term to describe the team facilitator.

Here’s how Sheridan explains the meaning of Kanban:


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