Don't shoot the programmer: SEI touts process method update
- By Jack Vaughan
[MARCH 4, 2003/ADT'S PROGRAMMERS REPORT] - In a renewed push to address the issue of defective
software -- an effort that faces more urgency in the face of continued Internet
hack attacks -- the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) has begun to promote
the Team Software Process (TSP). This means of achieving better software, say
adopters of the process at Microsoft Corp., has shown early promise in reducing
The Team Software Process seeks to help teams of engineers manage their work
to produce quality products on schedule. It was developed by Watts Humphrey, an
SEI fellow. The process grows out of Humphrey's earlier work on the Personal
Software Process (PSP), which in turn is based in part on quality engineering
concepts promoted in manufacturing industries. Both PSP and TSP look to improve
the performance of programmers by bringing more discipline to the way they
SEI is best known for its work to popularize the Capability Maturity Model
(CMM) framework for software process improvement. Recent experiences with TSP
were a matter of discussion at the group's Software Engineering Process Group
(SEPG) Conference held during the last week of February in Boston.
''The software industry is addressing Internet security problems with a
response strategy,'' said Humphrey. ''Security vulnerabilities are defects. We
ship products and wait for problems to be found. That says you need to have
problems before you can fix them.'' Before coming to SEI, Humphrey spent 27 years
at IBM where he served as manager of commercial software development, and
director of programming quality and process.
Humphrey said TSP is based on the same quality principles that the Japanese
introduced with automobile manufacturing in the 1970s. ''[Manufacturing expert W.
Edwards] Deming, Japanese auto-industry practices and semiconductor-industry
methods have focused on quality at the beginning of job,'' he noted.
Such basic common-sense practices as goal setting, measurement and reviews
are key ingredients in TSP-driven efforts to improve quality. ''By and large, the
software community has not learned the basic principles of quality,'' said
Humphrey. The major principles are to put quality in the product from the start
by focusing on the process, and to forgo personal recriminations.
Programmers have heard these calls to order before, and are not unjustly
skeptical. The blame for defects always falls to the programmer it seems, even
though many managers push for output above quality. As well, the push to
document processes often seems counter-productive to developers. For his part,
SEI's Humphrey says his means promote communication, and do not direct blame or
undue paperwork at programmers.
''The problem is not the programmers,'' said Humphrey, ''it is how they are
managed and trained.''
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Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.