Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Timeless Way 2

Excellent report from James Governor (Redmonk) on SAP's view of Timeless Software, and I am very glad to see Stewart Brand's work getting wider exposure. See also Nick Hortovanyi.

But I am puzzled at SAP's use of the word "timeless". This was apparently introduced by SAP CTO Vishal Sikka (via Mark Finnern) Vishal explains it further in the comments to James's blog.

"I have indeed coined the phrase timeless software to refer to our strategy of continuously evolving our software ... [and allowing for] constant and furious change across all layers of the technology stack."
What is timeless here is not the software itself but the process of continuous evolution. I have previously used the term "timeless software" to mean something closer to the original work of Christopher Alexander on the Timeless Way of Building. (See posts by Dion Hinchcliffe and myself from March 2006 )

Note also this quote from Barry Boehm's magisterial View of 20th and 21st Century Software Engineering (pdf) (via Andrew Newman)

The theory underlying software process models needs to evolve from purely reductionist “modern” world views (universal, general, timeless, written) to a synthesis of these and situational “postmodern” world views (particular, local, timely, oral)
In other words, Boehm is contrasting the timeless and the situated, and calling for a synthesis of both. I think the Brand notion of shearing layers (or pace layering as he is now calling it) allows us to get the best of both worlds - BOTH timeless AND situated. The "timeless" has a very slow pace of change, while the "situated" is much more dynamic. See my post on Lightweight Enterprise.

This is certainly consistent with material that has been coming out of SAP for many years about the stratification of business. See my review of Shai Agassi's talk on Achieving Enterprise Agility from 2004. At that time, Shai was talking about some really interesting ideas in this area that I wasn't hearing from any of the other major vendors. It is good to see that SAP is still pushing some of these ideas.


As my regular readers will know, I've been talking about Brand's book for many years, and I note the emergence of the term pace layering for Brand's principle that stratification should be based on the differential rate of change. See Long Now Blog. I previously referred to this principle as "shearing layers", but this refers to what happens when this principle is not followed.

No comments: