What Joel Spolsky may learn from the Indians (empirically speaking)


In his recent postings, Joel Spolsky gives a Wittgensteinian explaination as to why "MSF is a fraud". There have been a few responses to his postings, one notably from Roy Osherove who argues that it is "a management problem" - I couldn't agree with Roy more. To quote Roy further -

"Couldn’t this be said for *any* methdology out there, be it agile, XP, MSF, Waterfall? Sure. I don’t believe MSF is the problem here – in fact I believe that it’s a management problem – if you stuff a methodology down people’s throats – they won’t accept it even if it was "Do nothing but sit around all day, and fill out 3 reports" – it’s a human thing." Bingo! It is also a matter of leadership - motivating the creativity of the team to work within the constraints of the Methodologies/Processes/Procedures and stretching the boundaries when needed.

Methodologies/Processes/Procedures are there to help manage complexity, mitigate risk and make the cost-effectivess of the solution being built. This is increasingly an issue within the Software Industry as the solutions are increasingly complex because the business problems being solved is increasingly complex. It is now evolving into a matured process and the term 'software engineering' is used to describe it. One measurement of maturity of a software builder that is acceptable by the industry, is the SEI-CMM certification.

The SEI-CMM certification process (Levels 1 thru 5) does not endorse one framework methodology over the other - it's more results oriented: in terms of solution deliverables, function points, defect rates, project duration, etc. In essence, one may use MSF, in-house custom, Agile or any other processes. There are pros and cons of CMM and each brings its own costs but its primarily used as an indicator of quality. Ironically and as a side-note, it's more cost effective to use a CMM Level-4 firm over a CMM Level5 firm. (See 'Bug Reduction' table at the bottom of the article). Overall, what it shows is that methodologies/processes/procedures do alleviate defect rates (aka bugs). MSF is widely used in the Indian software industry  and about 3 out 4 of the SEI-CMM certified firms  are Indian firms. I am sure they read Joel's postings albeit the postings are not translated into any of the Indian languages. :-)