In his blog, Andrew Wulf
writes about the dangers of the Big Bang Delivery. In addition to providing a brief history of software projects gone wrong, it also contains his own experiences at Apple Computer
Andrew starts the blog entry by defining what the term Big Bang means in the software industry.
The Big Bang is the mother of all software development disasters; in an attempt to fix or change everything, everywhere, all at once, an organization tries to revolutionize but almost always ends up as the Titanic did.
He is quite right on pointing out that the larger projects that try to revolutionize have been the bug-a-boo of the software development industry since its inception. For his first example he cites the British national health care system
. The project is suppose to do what the Brazilians
have had success with, completely revolutionize health care by introducing technology. However unlike the Brazilians, the project appears to becoming unglued. What started out as a 2 billion pound sterling project is now expected to top 30. The massive project is becoming so complex that it is unlike that any single organization (small or large) will be able to manage to easily integrate their contributions into the bigger picture. Andrew’s prediction is that the project will fail to deliver on most of what has been promised.
More antidotal proof is offered by in his rehash of the problems with Vista
. Andrew comments that the complexity of the promised revolution has been watered down so that we know have "NT with fancy lipstick. With the series of recent blog entries
that explained how difficult it is to communicate inside MicroSoft, is it really all that surprising that Longhorn was whittled down. And in that regard, is MicroSoft really any different from any other large company? Andrews personal experience with Apple Computer in the mid-90s would suggest that it isn’t and Apple is no where near the size of MicroSoft.
I remember the day I realized it was a complete disaster. The Copland team had called a meeting of all the development groups and their representatives, and I volunteered to go as a Developer Support team representative, just to catch what was happening….. In talking later with some of the developers it was obvious that no one was really able to manage the development of the code, much less the design.
While Apple may have struggled with Copland, they did manage to turn things around by opting for a simpler option. That option eventually became OS/X.
Andrews answer to the Big Bang lies in this switch to OS/X from Copland, small teams that have good communication using dynamic languages (Objective-C was used at Apple) tend to do better. His conclusion is that large projects that are unable to be reduced to many simpler smaller projects will fail more often than not. The other lesson is that OS/X is evolutionary in that it is based on a solid proven core technology. In other words, when the foundation is solid, good things tend to happen.