Positive and Negative Innovations in Software Engineering

Positive and Negative Innovations in Software Engineering

Capers Jones (Software Productivity Research LLC, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0261-8.ch015
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Abstract

The software engineering field has been a fountain of innovation. Ideas and inventions from the software domain have literally changed the world as we know it. For software development, we have a few proven innovations. The way software is built remains surprisingly primitive. Even in 2008 major software applications are cancelled, overrun their budgets and schedules, and often have hazardously bad quality levels when released. There have been many attempts to improve software development, but progress has resembled a drunkard’s walk. Some attempts have been beneficial, but others have been either ineffective or harmful. This article puts forth the hypothesis that the main reason for the shortage of positive innovation in software development methods is due to a lack of understanding of the underlying problems of the software development domain. A corollary hypothesis is that lack of understanding of the problems is due to inadequate measurement of quality, productivity, costs, and the factors that affect project outcomes.
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Introduction

There are two kinds of innovations that are important to the software world: product innovations and process innovations. Product innovations involve developing new or improved products that will excite customers. Process innovations, involve developing new or improved methods of development that can shorten development times, reduce costs, or improve quality.

Innovations can be either positive or negative. Positive innovations are those that add value and have clearly defined benefits. Negative innovations are those that make situations worse, or which add to expense levels but not to perceived value.

In the software domain external product innovations and internal process innovations are at differing levels of sophistication. Even in 2008 very sophisticated and complex pieces of software are still constructed by manual methods with an extraordinary labor content and very distressing quality levels.

Another example of an imbalance between product innovations and process innovations can be seen in the migration of technology jobs from the United States to India, China, and other countries with low labor costs. Many sophisticated products designed in the United States are now being manufactured abroad because the U.S. has not been able to introduce internal manufacturing innovations in sufficient quantities to stay cost competitive.

However at the start of 2008, the continuing decline of the dollar against the Euro, the Yen, and other international currencies may become severe enough so that the United States becomes an outsource country with lower labor costs than most of Europe and parts of Asia. Also inflation rates abroad in much of Europe and even India are rising higher than in the United States. If these trends continue, within perhaps five years the cost advantages of international outsourcing may tip in favor of the United States.

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