EssUp: Ivar Jacobson wants to get at your wallet…

I just listened today to the episode #2 (MP3, 16mns) of the excellent podcast from parlezuml.com’s Jason Gorman, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to criticise Jacobson’s markeking approach to introducing EssUp (for Essential Unified process).

As much as I respect Jacobson (after all, he had been a near-god to me a few years back), especially for giving us Use Cases and for his tremendous work on the Unified Process, I still believe there’s something fishy with EssUp.

Best of the best practices

The intent of EssUp is to merge 3 major streams of process engineering: CMMi, RUP and Agile. From what you can hear in the podcast, Jacobson suggests that this new process takes the best from all three processes; from CMMi its focus on process improvement throughout the organisation, from RUP the clear separation of roles and activities in the project and the UML-base artifacts (think Use Cases), and from “Agile” its lean and mean attitude (well, really, it would take whatever would make the customer satisfied).

According to Jacobson, the need of a new process emerged from the realisation that UP (Unified Process) and its most known implementation RUP (Rational UP, from IBM) were too heavy to be applied fully and way too complex to be adapted… oh, and may I add that they weren’t too pleased that they didn’t contain the word “agile”?

Aggregation of practices

Every element of each of the aforementioned development processes is included or generalised in the EssUp process in what they call practices. They first draw an action plan tailored for your organisation, and they then choose which practices are best suited to your project and they make them work for you. I suspect that they would mostly respond to what you want to hear in terms of project organisation, but maybe that’s just me.

Clearly, what Jacobson and his team of highly competent consultants are selling is consultancy on every detail of a Software Development Process (SDP); no discussion about the fact that they are highly competent, I mean, if they all are of the same calibre as Jacobson, this must be a hell of party!

All in all, you know who they are and you know that they are knowledgeable about SDPs, and what you buy is their skills at setting up a working up something for you. However is this process mix-up like saying “We have got absolutely nothing, but we’ll make you pay us for helping anyway.”?

Groundbreaking?

I used to work with RUP on a project in the defence sector, back in 2001; at the time, I was much younger (indeed) and UP appeared to me as the best solution to SPD issues. It promised to take a hit at “the mythical man-month” by offering a set of roles, activities and artifacts that, if used cleverly, would guarantee a better outcome to your project. And to support that, they could show countless examples of how it worked for others… and I have to say, it actually worked quite well for us, although I would like to find a way to measure how much this was due to us using RUP?

- Now when I am looking at EssUp’s work packages (and their subsequent details) which are presented on Jacobson’s website from a high-level point of view, I can’t help remembering the probably overpriced RUP application that we used to try and follow good practices on the project. -

What I think is lacking in Essup, as well as in any other process, is actual research and evidence to demonstrate that using one practice is going to improve dramatically the chances of good outcome of your project. Moreover, there is no supporting analysis of how well practices perform when they are combined to each other; maybe two practices that independently improve a project’s viability would jeopardise it if combined? - I am not aiming at XP people that tell you that you have to use all XP for it to work, but can’t really tell what is the impact of dropping one of its practices -

Granted, there is no silver bullet (yet?) to software development process and having people like Jacobson foster new processes is certainly a very good thing; but you can bet that Essup is no silver bullet neither… so why present it as if it was one? And why not be honest about the fact that they actually want to sell good consultancy on highly engineered processes?

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One Response to “EssUp: Ivar Jacobson wants to get at your wallet…”

  1. Tad Anderson Says:

    We have been waiting too long now. We have decided the EssUP with TFS is OUT, ICONIX with SPARX is IN.

    More:
    http://realworldsa.dotnetdevelopersjournal.com/essuptoiconix.htm

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