Saturday, January 01, 2005

Productivity for Creativity

Some good thoughts buried in the lengthy debate between Adam Bosworth (Nov 18, Dec 12) and Jean-Jacques Dubray (Dec 5, Dec 27, Dec 31), with further intervention from Glenn Reid (Dec 23).

Adam divides software tools into two categories
  • demanding, abstract, rich but systematized
  • flexible, simple, sloppy, tolerant, and altogether forgiving of human foibles and weaknesses
Adam sees the former as oppressive, containing the seeds of its own destruction; he sees the latter as liberating, able to survive and grow. And yet he believes the future is in highly customizable web based solutions. (Are these solutions going to be built using the sloppy tools or the demanding ones?) Glenn is sceptical: "The problem is that customization isn't particularly easy, and most people don't bother." JJ rails against sloppy software engineering, and speaks eloquently in favour of productivity for creativity.

Productivity for creativity is a great slogan, but how is it to be achieved?

There is a fundamental clash between two modes of software production. In the Boxer Model of Collaborative Composition, we characterize these modes as Clockwise and Anticlockwise.

The anticlockwise mode of software production is dominated by the economics of scale/scope. As has become clear in recent years, this is generally not a sustainable game for the inhouse IT department, since it can usually be beaten on cost and scale by external solution providers such as systems integrators and offshore outsourcing. Many IT departments are becoming marginalized and irrelevant - Adam compares them with children building sand castles on the beach and watching the tide roll in.

Meanwhile, the systems integrators are starting to discover that the anticlockwise game doesn't work very well for them either, especially when dealing with highly complex and changing requirements. In recent years, there have been some large and high profile projects gone badly wrong - especially in public sector IT.

More to come. Please subscribe to receive the next instalment.

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