Random Notes on RSDC 2006 – Bruce Katz

Ed. Note: I’ve asked a few folks I know that went to the Rational Software Development Conference last week to write up their impressions for inclusion in this blog. The first guest blogger is Bruce Katz, IBM Rational QE Engineer. Thanks, Bruce, for your insights!

Let me start by stating that the conference was a tremendous success.

I know this because I heard it from IBM/Rational employees, conference attendees, and even a few hotel employees (o.k., I’ll admit – 1 employee the bartender in the lobby bar).

For employees, success was their ability to focus on their relationships with their customers.

For customers it was the learning and sharing of knowledge and experiences with their peers.

As for the bartender, well, he was very impressed with the discussions that took place in and around the bar. Discussions about collaborations, and integrations, and governance. Now would a bartender make that stuff up?

But, more important than these initial impressions were the messages being communicated by speakers, attendees, peers, and staff.

First a bit of context… the theme for RSDC 2006 was “Software In Concert.” Therefore many of the presentations contained analogies and correlations between software development and music. Keeping that theme, what I believed to be the primary message was, as singer/songwriter Bob Dylan once sung:

The Times They are A-Changin’

Dr. Danny Sabbah (GM, IBM/Rational) stated in his keynote that software development (as a whole) and its evolution toward creating solutions, must accelerate.

[Suddenly the MP3 player in my head is playing “Life in the Fast Lane” by the Eagles.]

But as Dr. Sabbah continued (and I paused the the MP3 player in my head), it became clear that his message underscored the significance of companies needing to become (or remain) agile and innovative as a result of the changing world, including as globalization, mass adoption of computing, and mass interconnection.

But why must we (software development) accelerate?

He offered: there’s significant pressure on businesses to adopt and implement change, to be agile, and to be innovative.

And the trends driving this change include:

  • Technology
  • Globalization
  • Governance and compliance

Danny summarized it thusly:

“ … we’re trying to do really is really maximize value and flexibility in a knowledge-based workforce while we’re controlling chaos … minimizing chaos and maximizing the ability for individuals to make the right decisions at the right place and time.”

At which point the MP3 player in my started playing Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” with the lyrics “we don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control …”

But after I hitting pause, I realized that his message was that companies must be innovative, not just in what they produce, but how they produce it. Innovation encompasses the development and/or adoption of new technologies. And its reflected in production via the processes used. And its reflected in the adoption and adherence the regulations.

And it must be done in environment with limited or no boundaries.

And suddenly, I got it.

And wouldn’t you know it, just then my MP3 player was playing Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Okay, it was the Emerson Lake and Palmer version (“Works Volume 1”), but nonetheless …

While I believe the above was the key message of the conference, it goes beyond the conference.

Sam Palmisano (Chairman, President and CEO of IBM) reiterated this message in a letter recently to the Financial Times (12 June 2006) in which he states that the emerging business model of the 21st century is what IBM calls “the globally integrated enterprise.”

This [new model] is possible due to “shared technologies and shared business standards, built on top of a global information technology and communications infrastructure.” There is the need for companies to “actively manage different operations, expertise and capabilities to open the enterprise up in multiple ways, allowing it to connect more intimately with partners, suppliers and customers and, most importantly, enabling it to engage in multifaceted, collaborative innovation.”

Okay, now I’m hearing the Boston Pops perform Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” complete with fireworks, just like on the 4th of July.

Sorry. I just pulled my MP3’s plug. Shouldn’t be a problem from now on.

Let’s rejoin the conference.

Buell Duncan (General Manager, IBM ISV and Developer Relations), in his presentation, noted how IBM and Rational are contributing to the development community toward addressing the aforementioned issues. These efforts include:

  • Skills for today
  • Innovative tools for tomorrow
  • Resources for business success

The IBM University Relations Program is where the company collaborates on research and developing future talent with selected schools around the world.

Additionally, our own efforts contribute by producing innovative products and solutions. Resources such as AlphaWorks and DeveloperWorks offer resources such as our intellectual property, training, and consulting services).

There were a few other messages worth noting, as they were repeatedly referred to several presentations or discussions, including:

  • Governance and Compliance

This was a big issue, as customers stated that this is increasing more significant in their companies, either as they are thrust upon them (via regulation) or are becoming best practice (competitive advantage).

  • Enablement

Customers viewed the following as the keys to success in software development:

· Technology
Technology is enabling us to collaborate better, more openly, and without boundary. Examples of this include the internet or the Eclipse platform.

· Practices and process
It seems that everywhere I turned, customers were sharing their best practices, lessons learned, and experiences. Some examples included one presentation on migrating from base CC to UCM enabled CC. Another presentation focused on planning for the implementation of ReqPro and CQ to support the traceability of changes in artifacts (a big “must do” regarding compliance).

· Products
There was tremendous excitement in the standing-room only preview session of the forthcoming Eclipse-based versions of our tools code-named “Jazz.” Customers were blown-away with the openness of the product/technology and the way in which teams could collaborate seamlessly and share responsibilities (and artifacts).

Of special note was the manner in which the tools and process guided development, but did not burden it.

  • Adoption

Whether it was the adoption of new technology, tools, or ideas, customers expressed the need to ensure its success. Mentioned as keys to successful adoption included:

· Value

Demonstrate the value frequently

· Measurement

Select and use appropriate measurements.

· Transparency and collaboration

Share information in both depth and breadth. Hide nothing so as to ensure that value also includes failures and lessons learned.

I’d wish to close by reflecting on a terrific presentation by Benjamin Zander, (Conductor, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, co-author “The Art of Possibility”).

While his presentation included many analogies between music and software, I thought it was his perspective on “possibility” that was most significant:

  • It’s all invented
  • Radiated possibility
  • Rule No. 6
  • It’s all invented

We rate things on arbitrary scales (such as grades being “A thru F” or ranking folks “1 thru 4”). A better product can be achieved by a team through collaboration, brainstorming, and interactions, than just assigning it to your “number “1” Person.”

  • Radiated Possibility

Radiated Possibility is about opportunity. Its about interactions. Its about taking chances. And its about learning and adopting.

Radiated Possibility, as Mr. Zander stated, “is but one interaction away.”

  • Rule No. 6

Simply stated, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”

And with that, I take take home a few presentation handouts, a really cool backpack, some tchotchkes from the exhibit hall.

And of course, all this great wisdom that I’ll be expected to do something back at the office.

But then again, I can always try to implement rule 6. 😉

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