Re: So this is why...!

Subject: Re: So this is why...!
From: Dan Emory <danemory -at- primenet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 08:19:04 -0800

At 10:32 AM 11/30/00 -0500, Tim Altom wrote:

For my colleagues who work in the software industry, there's a report on quoting the consulting group Software Productivity Research
that the average programmer spends only 47 hours per year adding value to a
product. The rest of the time is spent debugging, testing, or working on
projects that are tanked before release.

Considering that our industry is heavily dependent in turn on the software
industry, this is alarming news indeed. But it does explain a lot.
Below is an extract from an article that appeared recently in the LA times:
The extract cites the same source as, and explains
what they (software engineers) do the rest of the year.
Capers Jones, chief scientist for the consulting firm Software Productivity Research in Burlington, Mass., has estimated that "about 60% of the U.S. software work force are engaged in fixing errors which might have been avoided." Moreover, he writes, for software engineers, "only about 47 working days in a full calendar year are available for actually developing or enhancing software applications." The rest of their time, about 150 days, is spent on testing, fixing bugs and working on projects that are later canceled.
Jones concludes in his published paper, "There would probably be no software labor shortage if software quality could be brought under full control."
Jones writes, "Much of the work of software engineering is basically 'wasted' because it concerns either working on projects that will not be completed, or working on repairing defects that should not be present at all."
Jones' figures do not even address the vast overhead of tech support and maintenance required within organizations that use even modestly sophisticated computer software and networks.
Of course, Andrew Plato would argue that this problem, like the problem
with writers, is that the software engineers aren't using their brains enough.
But everyone who has seriously addressed the problem of poor
software quality would agree that improved processes are the answer,
not more jolt-cola-swgging cowboy programmers who claim they could
fix all the bugs if everyone would just leave them alone, and stop
making them follow procedures.

Does that sound familiar? Andrew argues that if you eliminate
processes, don't impose structure, forget about content
management, forget about configuration control, and make writers
use MS Word, the result will be better documentation at a lower
cost. I contend that Andrew's approach produces the writing equivalent
of spaghetti code, which results in the same downstream catastrophe
(huge overhead, increased tech support costs) produced
by his cowboy equivalents in the software engineering profession.

| Nullius in Verba |
Dan Emory, Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design & Database Publishing
Voice/Fax: 949-722-8971 E-Mail: danemory -at- primenet -dot- com
10044 Adams Ave. #208, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
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