Steve McConnell on the Software Development Process

Infoworld reports on Steve McConnell’s talk at the SD West 2006 Software Development Conference. His major points,

McConnell’s best ideas included the following:

* Recognize that software development is performed by human beings and that personnel capabilities are critical in software projects.

* Iteration and incrementalism in software development are essential.

* The cost of fixing defects increases over time.

* Software projects tend to follow a predictable intellectual flow.

* The ability to create accurate software estimates can be improved over time.

* The most powerful form of reuse is full reuse.

* Risk management provides critical insight into many software development issues. McConnell cited extrinsic risk management activities, which are bolted onto a project, and intrinsic activities, such as project tracking and UI prototyping.

* Different kinds of software call for different kinds of software development.

* A software engineering body of knowledge (SWEBOK) exists, featuring disciplines such as configuration management, maintenance and testing.

“I’m not convinced [SWEBOK is the ultimate answer],” McConnell said. “I think it’s a very good start, though.”

The other worst ideas in software development cited by McConnell included:

* There are only two development options: iterate everything and iterate nothing (the waterfall model).

* Agile projects are immune to DCI (defect cost increase) dynamics. “The software engineering research really does not bear out this idea,” McConnell said.

* We have to accept “wickedness” in software projects since software projects are for wicked problems.

* Requirements are always changing.”[The] single most common source of changing requirements [is] requirements that were not significantly investigated in the first place,” said McConnell.

* Requirements can be gathered or they just drop out of the sky like manna from Heaven.

* Entrepreneurial companies cannot be afraid of risk.

* One single development approach will work best for all projects.

Steve is the author of the seminal work on Software Development Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules.

2 thoughts on “Steve McConnell on the Software Development Process

  1. I was at this talk yesterday over lunch at SD West 2006. My feeling was the presentation was a little flat and too dependent on powerpoint slides.

    The SWEBOK part of the talk was interesting. He admitted that it was controversial and just a stake in the ground. My personal feeling as a PMP holder is that software development doesn’t need anything like the PMBOK.


  2. Ed,

    I think as the project scales (imagine building the Oracle database with over 5000 contributors worldwide) then PMBOK starts to dominate.



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