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Closing the Gap

First Trend: Closing the Gap

The oldest of the three trends is the increasing automation of the software development process.

"As software engineers we've spent the past two decades automating every other aspect of the organization -- manufacturing, engineering, accounting, human resources and customer services for example," said Millar. "But IT has been slow to bring the same degree of sophistication and practice to its own work --to the process of creating and evolving software to meet continual business demands." Millar said the situation reminds him of the old adage about "the shoemaker's children having no shoes."

"The IT worker was so busy reengineering and automating everyone else to prepare for the digital revolution -- now that revolution has taken place, IT practices have some catching up to do," he said. "That's where I see this profound change -- I'm really starting to see a strong appetite for software process improvement."

This appetite for improvement is growing, says Millar, he sees this quiet transformation is moving from Moore's early-adopter phase into the early-majority phase. In 2008 the notion of successfully automating the development of large software systems is not leading-edge in itself. "What is recent," says Millar, "is that practice, process and tools for achieving this kind of automation are now coming together."

Millar points to Ivar Jacobson, principal of Ivar Jacobson Consulting (IJC) -- a founding father of the Unified Process, UML and the use-case-driven approach. Jacobson has customized his Essential Unified Process to make it work with the Microsoft Solutions Framework and to integrate with Microsoft's VSTS and the related Team Foundation Server (TFS) and .NET.

Jacobson's IJC has joined Microsoft's Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) program. Essential Unified Process targets small teams interested in agile and iterative development and an agile Unified Process for software process improvement. Millar also cites the work of process gurus David Anderson, author of Agile Management, and Scott Ambler, author of Agile Modeling. "It was just a few years ago when both Anderson and Ambler were breaking radical new ground challenging organizations to approach software development in entirely new ways," he said.

"Anderson now works for Bill Gates' Corbis, and Ambler is now an Agile practice leader with IBM," said Millar. "Their thinking today is every bit as brilliant as five years ago, but it's now becoming accepted by progressive CIO's, their IT workers and managers. Millar said that every week he works with corporate clients who have adopted approaches from Jacobson, Anderson and Ambler and have increasingly turned their once-radical concepts into standard industry best practice. "I sense this quiet transformation is on the way to becoming mainstream."

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"The leading sector for this 'early majority' phase is what Gartner refers to as 'small and midsize enterprises' (SMEs), usually because many of the new tools are affordable and SMEs are less invested in the old ways and tools of the more traditional vendors," said Millar. "But we're also seeing small pockets within the Fortune 500 take a nimbler approach. The leaders are starting to change their software development culture, adopt better practices and ito standardize on UML tools to close the gap between business process, requirements, coding and testing."

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