Methods & Tools Software Development Magazine

Software Development Magazine - Project Management, Programming, Software Testing

 

Methods & Tools - News, Facts & Comments Edition - February 2001

*** Products ****************************************************************

* Microsoft Says "JUMP"

Microsoft and Sun have settled last month their dispute about Microsoft's proprietary modifications of Java integrated in its Visual J++Builder product. Microsoft will pay $20 million to settle the trademark-infringement suit, but it has still the rights to sell Visual J++Builder for another seven years. Microsoft also announced plans to release a tool kit called JUMP (Java User Migration Path) that will allow users of Java to migrate to the .NET platform, with automated conversion of code to C#, the .NET-related language.

These news seem to mean that Microsoft's Java strategy is to do without Java! This is not a surprise because the company has always preferred proprietary standards. If Microsoft presents this move as "a commitment to interoperability and choice of programming language for building Web services", it is clear that the idea is NOT to choose Java, but rather a Microsoft's managed language, like C#. This will lead to an interesting confrontation between the .NET platform and Java as the preferred environment for developing business applications. As there are little doubts that Windows will remain the dominant client OS in companies for the coming years, the success of Java will be linked to the availability of tools to run its evolution on the Windows/Explorer platforms.

*** Companies ***************************************************************

* Ideas and Oil Reunified

During the 70's oil crisis, a French ad said "We do not have oil, but we have ideas". Now you can find both in the same company as oil services Schlumberger Ltd said it had agreed to buy Anglo-French IT services Sema Group for $5.2 billion in cash. Schlumberger 10'000 IT staff will be transferred to Sema which has currently 20'000 employees. Sema Group was in trouble since last year acquisition of US-German software house LHS, a company hard to digest for Sema Group. Its stock price has lost around 66% from its high of 2000 after two profit warnings.

With many IT service companies facing a financial crisis causes by a somewhat overcrowded market and the economy slowdown, this deal is another signal that many industrial-based companies are extending their reach toward the bundle of software content with the hardware products. The failed acquisition of PriceWaterhouseCoopers by Hewlett-Packard is another example. Global giants like Siemens or ABB have also in their strategy the goal to increase the part of revenues produced by software. IT companies with strength in industrial automation are therefore preferred target, furthermore if their stock price is low.

*** In Other's Words ********************************************************

* The Quest for the Good Manager

"I used to think Dilbert was funny. [...] But I don't laugh at Dilbert anymore. [...] The tragedy is that the comic strip reflects a painful reality for many thousands of software professionals. As one colleague put it to me recently, 'Dilbert isn't a joke, it's a documentary'.

[...] The result is that management itself, both in function and image, is held in low esteem, if not utter contempt, by many software developers. We have more evidence for this than just Dilbert-style anecdotes. A 1997 marketing survey by Windows Tech Journal (now sadly defunct) produced some surprising insights into its subscribers' attitudes toward management. Simply stated, they hate it. And they detest the superstructure of incompetent managers whom they have suffered under for the better part of their careers. Management is not seen as a support, it is seen as an enemy: dogmatic, incompetent, and above all, stupid.

The WinTech survey's other major finding was that, despite its almost exclusively technical content, the vast majority of its readers were, and presumably still are, managers. Furthermore, most of them are managers not because they want to be (they're techies at heart) but because they are simply the best person around for the job. This was stunning - and ironic - revelation. Inside the industry is a hidden generation of younger managers who hate management. In fact, their disdain for it is so intense that most of them refuse even to have the word 'manager' in their job title. As a response, WinTech carefully avoided all use of the 'M word' in its marketing literature and editorial copy, instead substituting less offensive terms like "team leader".

[...] I suggest, for example, that the skills and faculties required to manage many software projects are at least as difficult to master as those required to, say, remove your best liver. Yet surgeons get years of training, mentoring, and hand-on practice before they're allowed to work on patients independently. They are carefully selected as candidates by other doctors - first by physicians in medical school, then by practicing surgeons in postdoc training, which runs at least six years. Surgery is a life-and-death matter. Its practitioners are totally committed and serious about it. However, I daresay that the stakes are just as high, if not higher, with software development, where the equivalent of a slip of the knife can kill hundreds or event thousands of people at a time, rather than just one.

[...] As a coherent industry, we're not even close at this point. Scan the pages of software journals and you'll see that all the ads are for various kinds of technical tools. There is nothing about management training, save for the occasional project management seminar, which typically ignores about 90 percent of what's important. This reflects the assumption that training is not needed and is simply an unnecessary expense. It's hard to make a case for it when the demand for software allows many development organizations to make money hand over fist delivering mediocre software. Yet few people are good "natural" managers, and this is especially true of software developers, who are introverted souls far more adept at interacting with logical machinery than with their unwashed and occasionally irrational fellow humans.

Thus we regularly hear ludicrous stories about the lack of even the most fundamental management skills - such as that of the Fortune 500 company that tried to hold a "team meeting" with 35 people. This illustrates again that the market simply isn't there for true, professional software management, because if it were, some sharp, well-financed operation would be making a killing.

[...] This will change. At some point in the future, software development managers will be chosen and prepared for their jobs with as much care and respect as surgeon are today. Business managers will become more software savvy and self-confident, and they will no longer need nor tolerate the Dilbert class manager's foolishness."

Source: "Dilbert University", Mark Weisz, IEEE Software, September/October 1998

There are many developers hoping that the dreamed future of Mark Weisz will come true soon. The lack of training and mentoring for new and existing software managers is unacceptable. As stated in our Fall 2000 issue, 50% of the companies give their software project manager less than one week of training per year. On the other hand, I think that some of my fellow developer will hate EVERY manager that tries... to manage them!!!

*** Conferences *************************************************************

".NET in One Day", conducted by Bertrand Meyer, includes the .NET vision and platform, language interoperability, frameworks (ASP.NET, ADO.NET), .NET object model.
March-April-May, various cities in Europe-USA-Canada     http://www.dotnetexperts.com

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Attend the Software Test Automation Conference for viable and practical
solutions to the most critical software test automation problems.
March 5-8, 2001. San Jose, California     http://www.sqe.com/testautomation

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TOOLS Europe "Components for Mobile Computing". A major conference devoted to object technology, component technology and other modern software approaches.
March 12-14, 2001. Zurich Switzerland     http://www.tools-conferences.com/europe

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TOOLS USA "Software Technologies for the Age of the Internet". How the software industry can meet the post-Y2K challenges of delivering quality applications that best address the needs of the people they affect.
July 29-August 3, 2001 Santa Barbara, C, USA      http://www.tools-conferences.com/usa

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Karl Wiegers' In Search of Excellent Requirements

Bonus: Methods & Tools readers will receive $125.00 OFF the regular seminar price. Also, receive FREE, Karl Wiegers' highly acclaimed book, Software Requirements (Microsoft Press, 1999) if you register before Feb. 28, 2001. Virginia / Washington DC March 26-27, 2001 http://www.spc.ca/epr8

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