Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Real Time Process Improvement with SCRUM

Tonight, I am giving a presentation on SCRUM at the Boston Software Process Improvement Network monthly meeting at MITRE Corp. in Bedford, MA. It is a variant of the SCRUM Theory and Practice portion of the OTUG workshop I did in Minneapolis last year.

Sutherland, Jeff. Scrum: Theory and Practice. Object Technology User Group Distinguished Lecture: Agile Software Development with SCRUM with Application to Healthcare Mobile Platform Development. University of St Thomas, St Paul, MN, March 18, 2003.

A core piece of this presentation is a review of iterative and incremental development, a basic strategy for all agile processes. It is important to note that leading experts in the field felt strongly even in 1957 that the waterfall method did not describe what actually happened in software development. Yet the waterfall method has become a lingering urban myth, despite causing hundreds of billions of dollars of project failures. It is essential to constantly remind people that the waterfall method is fundamentally flawed in concept and has doomed to failure many of the most well funded software projects.

Larman and Basili's paper on this topic is required reading for those interested in this topic. Send me a note if you can't get your hands on a copy.

Larman, Craig and Basili, VictorIterative and Incremental Development: A Brief History. IEEE Computer 36:6:47-56, June 2003.

"We were doing incremental development as early as 1957, in Los Angeles, under the direction of Bernie Dimsdale [at IBM's Service Bureau Corporation]. He was a colleague of John von Neumann, so perhaps he learned it there, or assumed it as totally natural. I do remember Herb Jacobs (primarily, though we all participated) developing a large simulation for Motorola, where the technique used was, as far as I can tell, indistinguishable from XP.

"When much of the same team was reassembled in Washington, DC in 1958 to develop Project Mercury, we had our own machine and the new Share Operating System, whose symbolic modification and assembly allowed us to build the system incrementally, which we did, with great success. Project Mercury was the seed bed out of which grew the IBM Federal Systems Division. Thus, that division started with a history and tradition of incremental development.

"All of us, as far as I can remember, thought waterfalling of a huge project was rather stupid, or at least ignorant of the realities. I think what the waterfall description did for us was make us realize that we were doing something else, something unnamed except for "software development." Gerald Weinberg

Friday, September 10, 2004

Next Big Thing: Gigabyte Drive on Your Cellphone

After spending 11 years on the faculty of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and doing research on the wards, I always felt that physicians would only use a cellphone/PDA combination in the long run. I had nurses using tablets and syncing to PDP11s in 1976! Average time from research results to medical practice is 17 years and counting in healthcare.

We are beginning to see signs of convergence that will fuel adoption. Simultaneous cellular/802.11 capability is essential. I've been working with Cingular, Sprint, ATT, and others on business development relationships (as well as Microsoft and Intel) and hammering on this requirement. Docs have to switch to 802.11 data transfer and VOIP when then walk into the hospital and need to be on the cellular network on the golf course. You can bet that a lot of medicine will be practiced on the golf course in the future.

Here we see gigabyte drives start to appear on the cellphone.

Is That a Hard Drive in Your Pocket?
MIT Technology Review
By Eric Hellweg, September 10, 2004

Where were you on Tuesday, September 7? Struggling to get back to work mode after a three-day weekend? If so, then it’s understandable if you missed the small announcement issued by Samsung on that date. The two-paragraph press release seemed innocuous enough, but its ramifications will likely be felt around the world. The company proclaimed that it was releasing the world’s first cell phone with a hard drive.

The SPH-V5400 model phone, which will debut in Korea next week, comes equipped with a postage-stamp-sized hard drive storing 1.5 gigabytes. That's a massive increase in capacity over the flash memory that most cell phones ship with today. The new phone also features a one-megapixel digital camera, a high-resolution, 5.6-centimeter liquid crystal display, a software-based MP3 player, e-book software, and Korean-English dictionary software. The device will sell for the equivalent of $800.

So what’s the big deal? The technology industry works under the maxim, build it and they will come. Build faster processors, and the applications taking advantage of the speed will arrive. Build more storage and the industry will find ways to fill it. Up until now, cell phones have made do with storage capacities that are tiny by today’s standards. Most cell phones max out around 100 megabytes, while home computers ship with 40, 60, 80, or 100 gigabyte drives. A cell phone sporting 1.5 gigabytes suddenly opens itself up to more data possibilities, and begins encroaching even more into the domain of portable music player and PDAs.

Now couple the possibilities that arise from bigger storage with the fact that the cell phone is one of those rare devices that people need no convincing to own. In fact, they’re willing to put up with coverage that’s frankly subpar in many cases just to be reachable. So you have a device that people truly want, is getting a massive storage upgrade, and is serviced by networks that desperately want to increase their data traffic revenues and take advantage of their expensive high-speed networks. That's pretty compelling.