Re: The software factory (was "Don't believe the hype?") (long)

Subject: Re: The software factory (was "Don't believe the hype?") (long)
From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 11:32:25 -0500

Steve has a point and so does John.

Consider this scenario. A company manufactures cell phones.

At one level they have scientists in a lab puzzling over problems of metallurgy and circuit miniaturization and algorithm design--highly variable, unpredictable, creative efforts that may yield a breakthrough in one technology or another every couple of years.

At another level they feed those breakthroughs into a reasonably well oiled sausage grinder that can turn out a new product platform design in a fairly predictable cycle time. This might take a year of prototyping, testing, and regulatory approval.

At a third level, the marketing organization exploits the new platform to churn out product designs, one after another, to appeal to different audiences at different price points, with different feature sets and in different shell shapes and colors.

This third level of new product development really is repeatable and predictable, with known, deadline-driven cycle times. Mark Baker's model of automatically generated feature trees and button-pushing instructions is certainly applicable. At this level, new product development (and the associated tech writing) really does resemble manufacturing. It's almost an integrated part of the manufacturing cycle, because it constitutes the engine that keeps the factory churning out new products.

At the first and second levels, though, I think Steve's model begins to break down. Yes, you can have a defined process for managing an R&D operation. But no, you can't just write down some procedures for making new scientific discoveries and hire some kid off the street to run the procedure. You can't micromanage creative contributors. What you can do is give them a list of deliverables and negotiate deadlines with them, then manage to those deadlines. In other words, you can tell them what you want and when you want it, and then you can give them the resources to get the job done. But you can't tell them how to do their work or which tab goes in what slot, because doing so won't get you the results you want.

The kind of tech writing that corresponds with these levels requires some creativity and is unlikely to be reduced to a series of algorithms, in my opinion.


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RE: The software factory (was "Don't believe the hype?") (long): From: stevefjong

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