IBM Rational Gets Good Governance with Open-Source Practices
- By John K. Waters
How can project managers get better control of ongoing software development
projects--in other words, improve ''IT governance'' in their organizations?
According to Dr. Lee Nackman, VP of product development and customer support at
IBM's Rational division, by adopting some of the principles of open-source
Nackman gave a keynote on Tuesday at the SD West show entitled, ''IT
Governance: What it Means, Why You Should Care, and How It Can Help You.'' He
told his audience that IBM has improved its own IT governance by weaving some
open-source principles into its decision-making structure.
''It's not good governance to be counting keystrokes like the boss in
Dilbert,'' Nackman, said, referring to my favorite pointy-haired
executive in the newspaper comic strip. ''Good governance,'' he said, emphasizes
developer empowerment, which is a cornerstone of the open-source model.
Open-source development isn't as loosey-goosey as you might think. Nackman
pointed out that the leading OSS orgs actually employ grounded, merit-based
governance processes. The difference is, instead of working off a set of
requirements handed down by a pointy-haired boss, open-source developers work
on features identified out by a peer-based, collaborative process.
Nackman also pointed to a successful, highly collaborative program at his own
company, called IBM Community Source, which employs an open source-like
governance model in the development of behind-the-firewall software projects.
The big idea here is that managers can get better control of the projects for
which they are responsible by letting go of the idea that they must impose
rigid, measurable processes on developers. You set up an architecture, but you
let the developers innovate within it. I'm reminded of the famous General Patton
admonition: ''Never tell people how to do things; tell them what to do and they
will surprise you with their ingenuity.''
Nackman's notions should come as no surprise; IBM has had more than a few
toes in the open-source pond for some time. Nackman himself was one of the
IBMers who pushed to make the Eclipse framework (which Big Blue built) open
source. And he became a founding member of the Board of Stewards for
Speaking of which, Nackman also told attendees that IBM will be previewing
some new Eclipse-based governance technology at next week's EclipsCon 2006
Conference (which will take place right here in Santa Clara). ''It's really
about a distributed platform that will support geographically distributed teams
that are working together,'' he said.
Sounds interesting. I'll be there... I mean, here.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached