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Construction and software

2007-08-15 19:37:21.100414+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

Lean Construction, comparing the process of building software to the process of building buildings:

I started to explain: “In software development, we are told we should manage our projects like construction projects, where a building is designed at the start, cost and schedule are predictable, and customers get what they expect.”

Silence. “You’re kidding, right?” “No, honest, that’s what we’re told.”

[ related topics: Software Engineering Fabrication Architecture ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: Right made: 2007-08-15 21:46:22.399931+00 by: m

That is possible when the customer actually understands his own process, is honest, and complete in his descriptions during the analysis phase. Then the process must be one in which the design can be frozen, which happens as often as hell freezing over.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-08-16 03:27:04.77517+00 by: ziffle

The difference is that in a construction project, after they are up to the 10th floor and about to finish the building, the owner does not come along and say something like: "look there is room on the top to put 40 more stories - go ahead and do that" - by the weekend and for the same money ....

I did long term project for a company that had a CPA running the software building department, along with his other jobs in the corporate office, and the closer we got to finishing, and the harder we worked, wiping out the bug reports, he would pour changes into the requirements, so as we pushed to finish, the code became more complicated and unreliable.

I finally typed a 20 page story/summary of the behavior of the manager into the source code and pushed it into the versioning system so that future programmers could see what they were up against. hehe

#Comment Re: made: 2007-08-16 09:29:34.127499+00 by: meuon

I only bill by the hour for these reasons. :)

#Comment Re: made: 2007-08-16 13:44:02.491649+00 by: petronius [edit history]

Of course, in remodeling jobs the construction crew gets your kitchen half done, then wander off to start another job, knowing that you are stuck waiting for them since you can't restart the project with a new guy. This ever happen in software.

A few years ago here I linked to an article about the failure of the FBI's massive computer upgrade project. The upshot was that they had one major change order per day for 3 years, a true formula for disater. Of course, 9/11 took place a few months into the project, so maybe some of the orders were necessary...

#Comment Re: made: 2007-08-16 14:12:56.34364+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think one of the problems with the construction metaphor has been that it then casts programmers as carpenters. Instead, the language we're using should be viewed as the analogue to the CAD system and finite element analysis software of an architect.

I had, however, had this notion of building management where it was reasonable to get down to counting the number of nails, and it sounds like construction isn't to that stage even assuming no change orders.