Monday, February 08, 2010

Denying Productivity

(Continued from: Cause and Effect and Developer Productivity)

If you choose to use the ability to control and observe your software to restore and cultivate software development productivity, you have to come to terms with the reality of your software as it presently is, and dispense with the stories you tell yourself about just how much productivity your software development has. It's difficult to accept where you are if where you are is much further back than you had realized. If you don't accept where you are, you won't progress. If you already feel that you've arrived, you won't screw up the courage to challenge what it is that you know, and embark on that next stage of your career voyage.

In the past, we've used the term "testability" to describe the quality of design that allows for the kinds of expectations for software development productivity caused by the ability to control and observe. To those who introduced the term to every day software development vernacular, the term has a very specific meaning, and refers to designs that are very specifically evidenced by a set of well-known and observable design principles and patterns. And to others, the term was misinterpreted and misrepresented as software that is tested.

"Testability" means software that is extremely easy to test rather that software that merely has tests. Any software can be tested, what matters is how incredibly easy it is to do so. The easier it is to test software, the more that the software can be controlled and observed. The more directly that bits of your software can be controlled and observed, the more directly that your software can be understood, and the more that your software design will be simple and clear, and reflect principles productive software design.

The level of simplicity in question is usually beyond the realm of possibility for developers who have not had experience with software that is designed to be quickly and readily understood. When the ability to understand software through the ability to control and observe is understood to be the root cause of software development productivity, the software designs that you create will be radically different than what you may have become accustomed to. And while these designs will seem foreign and strange at first, you'll soon learn to see them as the most natural, workable designs that you've created, and that you've worked with.

For example, there's no doubt that you can control the content of an application's database from the application's user interface, but that is a far cry from a level of control that will have any significant effect on productivity, not to mention that such a means to control and observe doesn't even begin to guarantee the extent to which all the bits of software in between can be immediately understood. It's still control, and it's still control that can followed up by observation, but it isn't direct control and direct observation. If you're concerned with the behavior of your data access logic, for example, you must be able to control it directly by using your data access logic directly rather than using it transitively through an application's user interface. If you must use your application's user interface to observe the results of the control you exert on your application's database, then you're not able to satisfy your concern directly through direct observation, and you're invariably not gaining any of the great productivity benefits that come from productive design.

Be careful of getting ahead of yourself: it doesn't lead to learning of any meaningful significance. Learning to control and observe will bring the biggest advances to your experience of software development productivity. If you stake a claim to this learning before you've barely begun, chances are you'll never really learn what it means and how to use it to any significant degree. And this would be sad, because the means to direct control over your software really isn't difficult to learn. You will be disrupted more by the mass of unlearning of what you already hold firmly as software productivity than by the small amount new learning that you'll really need.

If you want to reach into this realm of productivity that is beyond what you've yet experienced, then commit yourself in earnest to be a student of software design principles. Learn how to apply simple software design principles and exercises to productivity. Commit to a journey to master software design from a principled perspective where productivity is your a-priory concern and the thing that you delivery consistently. You'll find that there's really not a lot to learn once you're over the initial interference of what you presently believe.

It's vital that when you embark on the exploration of the next realm of software development productivity that you start from a realistic place, and resist every urge to claim victory before you've barely out of sight of your own home port. If you stake a claim to understanding what it is to control and observe your software, you'll deny the vast wealth of productivity that is practically within your reach.

It's hard to start down a new path to new understanding, but denying that you need to continue learning and to challenge entrenched orthodoxy is no way to start.

Next: How the Mainstream Lost Software Development Productivity

Ampersand GT

Working with software developers and organizations to help realize the potential of software product development through higher productivity, higher quality, and improved customer experience

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