Is the UML honeymoon over?

The honeymoon is over for the Unified Modeling Language (UML), reports freelance writer Jack Vaughan in this month's cover story, "UML hits the streets."

Observers agree that UML had a free ride through most of the late 1990s, following its creation by some of the development world's brightest minds—Grady Booch, James Rumbaugh and Ivar Jacobson—and original owner Rational Software's brilliant plan to create an independent UML standard while remaining tied to the method. That move was a key factor in Rational's rapid growth over several years until some recent stumbles brought it back to earth.

UML is indeed an independent standard today, and has been widely used in some of the world's top corporate development labs—as chronicled in these columns over the past several years. In some cases, UML and use cases have significantly helped developers. In others, the results have been mixed, prompting some disparagement from disgruntled users. Vaughan examines some of the reasons for the less-than-successful efforts and, by extension, for the criticism.

Vaughan found that many of the critics of UML and use cases are advocates of so-called eXtreme Programming (XP), who in some ways compare UML to past development advances like Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE) and structured analysis that for many IT development organizations turned into boondoggles. (Remember AD/Cycle?) UML and its reliance on use cases, say these critics, discourage programmers from following its sometimes difficult guidelines. XP, on the other hand, was created to ease the programming process, its backers say.

Vaughan takes a close look at the pros and cons of UML and use cases, collecting the thoughts and opinions of a slew of development industry gurus. The conclusion: that UML and use cases, when used correctly, can be an enormous help to developers in specific projects or for specific pieces of projects. But UML alone cannot solve every problem. Many projects must employ a mix of modeling schemes. It's up to development managers and their teams to determine the best mix for each project.

Meanwhile, regular contributor Rich Seeley looks at the role of project management since it was foisted onto thousands of developers during the year 2000 "crisis" ("PSA emerges from Y2K ashes"). Seeley found that in many IT operations, project management is falling under the new Professional Services Automation (PSA) moniker, which also burst out of the Y2K realm. The story looks at how developers are responding to management's call for more methodical development efforts.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.