Unlike other engineering industries, the software engineering industry is really lacking maturity. The lack of maturity can see in different aspects of entire software development life cycle. I think other engineering industries are well organised and structured with common, proven engineering practices. The software engineering industry is greatly a diverse industry with different operating systems, and variety of development platforms, programming languages, frameworks and tools. Now these days, people are going behind the hypes and intellectual thoughts without understanding their core business problems and adopting technologies and practices for the sake of technologies and practices and simply becoming a “poster child” of technologies and practices. Understanding the core business problem and providing best, solid solution with a platform neutral approach, will give you more business values and ROI, instead of blindly adopting technologies and tailor-made your applications for the sake of technologies and practices. People have been simply migrating their solutions in favour of new technologies and different versions of frameworks without any business need.
The “Pepsi Challenge” in the Software Development
Pepsi Challenge marketing campaign of the 1980s was a popular and very interesting marketing promotion in which people taste one cup of Pepsi and another cup with Coca Cola. In the taste test, more than 50% of people were preferred Pepsi over Coca Cola. The success story behind the Pepsi was more sweetness contains in the Pepsi cola. They have simply added more sugar and more people preferred more sweet flavour. You can’t simply identify the better one after sipping one cup of cola based on the sweetness which contains. These things have been happening in the software industry for choosing development frameworks and technologies. People have been simply choosing frameworks based on the initial sugary feeling without understanding its core strengths and weakness. The sugary framework might be more harmful when you develop real-world systems. There is not any silver bullet for solving all kind of problems and frameworks and tools do have strengths and weakness. So it would be better to understand their strength and weakness. And please keep in mind that you have to develop real apps to understand the real capabilities and weakness of a framework. Evaluating a technology based on few blog posts will harm your projects and these bloggers might be lacking real-world experience with the framework.
The Problem with Align a Development Practice with Tools
Recently I have observed a discussion in a group where one guy asked suggestions for practicing Continuous Delivery (CD) as part of the agile based application engineering. Then the discussion quickly went to using and choosing a Continuous Integration (CI) tool and different people suggested different Continuous Integration (CI) tools for simply practicing Continuous Delivery. If you have worked with core agile engineering practices, you could clearly know that the real essence of agile is neither choosing a tool nor choosing a process. By simply choosing CI tool from a particular vendor will not ensure that you are delivering an evolving software based on customer feedback. You have to understand the real essence of a engineering practice and choose a right tool for practicing it instead of simply focus on a particular tool for a practicing an development practice. If you want to adopt a practice, you need a solid understanding on it with its real essence where tools are just helping us for better automation.
Adopting New Technologies for the Sake of Technologies
The another problem is that developers have been a tendency to adopt new technologies and simply migrating their existing apps to new technologies. It is okay if your existing system is having problem with a technology stack or or maintainability challenge with existing solution, and moving to new technology for solving the current problems. We have been adopting new technologies for solving new challenges like solving the scalability challenges when the application or user bases is growing unpredictably. Please keep in mind that all new technologies will become old after working with it for few years. The below Facebook status update of Janakiraman, expresses the attitude of a typical customer.
The another problem is that if you like a particular framework, use it for all kind of apps. In the past, I know some Silverlight passionate guys were tried to use that framework for all kind of apps including larger line of business apps. And these days developers are migrating their existing Silverlight apps in favour of HTML5 buzzword. So the real question is, what is the business values we are getting from these apps when we are developing it for the sake of a particular technology instead of business need.
The another problem is that our solutions consultants are trying to provide unnecessary solutions for the sake of a particular technology or for a hype. For an example, Big Data solutions are great for solving the problem of three Vs : volume, velocity and variety. But trying to put this for every application will make problems. Let’s say, there is a small web site running with limited budget and saying that we need a recommendation engine for the web site with a Hadoop based solution with a 16 node cluster, would be really horrible. If we really need a Hadoop based solution, got for it, but trying to put this for all application would be a big disaster.
It would be great if could understand the core business problems first, and later choose a right framework for providing solutions for the actual business problem, instead of trying to provide so many solutions.
The Problem with Tied Up to a Platform Vendor
Some organizations and teams are tied up with a particular platform vendor where they don’t want to use any product other than their preferred or existing platform vendor. They will accept any product provided by the vendor regardless of its capability. This will lets you some benefits regards with integration and collaboration of different products provided by the same vendor, but it will loose your opportunity to provide better solution for your business problems. For a real world sample scenario, lot of companies have been using SAP for their ERP solutions. When they are thinking about mobility or thinking about developing hybrid mobile apps, they can easily find out a framework from SAP. SAP provides a framework for HTML 5 based UI development named SAPUI5. If you are simply adopting that framework only based for the preference of existing platform vendor, you might be loose different opportunities for providing better solution. Initially you might enjoy the sugary feeling provided by the platform vendor, but you have to think about developing apps which should be capable for solving future challenges. I am not saying that any framework is not good and I believe that all frameworks are good over another one for solving at least one problem. My point is that we should not tied up with any specific platform vendor unless your organization is having resource availability problems.
Being Polyglot for Providing Right Solutions
The modern software engineering industry is greatly diverse with different tools and platforms. Lot of open source frameworks and new programming languages have been releasing to the developer community, where choosing the right platform without any biased opinion, is really a difficult task. But it would really great if we could develop an attitude with platform neutral mindset and being a polyglot developer for providing better solutions based on the actual business problems. IMHO, we should learn a new programming language and a new framework every year. This will improve the quality of our developer capabilities and also improve the quality of our primary programming language skills. Being polyglot for individual developers and organizational teams will give you greater opportunity to your developer experience and also for your applications. Organizations can analyse their business problem without tied with any technology and later they can provide solutions by choosing different platform and tools.
In this blog post, what I was trying to say that we should not tied up or biased with any development platform, technology, vendor or programming language and we should not adopt technologies and practices for the sake of technologies. If we are adopting a technology or a practice for the sake of it, we are simply becoming a “poster child” of the technology and practice. We should not become a poster child of other people’s intellectual thoughts and theories, instead of it we should become solutions developers and solutions consultants where we should be able to provide better solutions for the business problems. Being a polyglot developer is a good idea for improving your developer skills which lets you provide better solutions for the business problems. The most important thing is that we should become platform neutral developers where our passion should be for providing brilliant solutions. It would be great if we could provide minimalist, pragmatic business solutions.
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