The Carrying Cost of Code

Michael Feathers has just written a post on The Carrying-Cost of Code: Taking Lean Seriously.  He says,

No, to me, code is inventory.  It is stuff lying around and it has substantial cost of ownership. It might do us good to consider what we can do to minimize it.

I’m not sure I can see the analogy of code that’s in production to inventory.  Code that hasn’t shipped, yes.

But all code is a liability, I think.  When code is in production, then it’s offset by the asset that is the functionality.  Whether or not the net is positive is another question.

There’s no doubt to me that code, whether in production or not, has carrying costs that are larger than generally realized.  Perhaps it’s a depreciating capital expense?

Carrying costs are larger than we think. There’s competitive advantage for companies that recognize this.

It’s something that takes up space.  It takes maintenance.  It takes attention.  It does have a substantial cost of ownership–larger than we think.

The analogies may be failing me, but I think Michael’s sentiment is correct.

When something persists, some reward exists

Jason Gorman has just written a piece in defense of Software Craftsmanship that highlights how very dependent our world has become on software.  He offers Gorman’s Law Of Software-Dependent Business Evolution:

Software-dependent businesses can only evolve as fast as their ability to write and evolve their software allows them to.

I think this is not only true, but an incredible opportunity for businesses that understand that.  Let’s face it: most businesses spend an awful lot of time for a very meager increase in systems capability.  Companies that do better than average can shoot to the top.  Look at the spectacular successes of some of the relatively young internet companies, for examples. (Continued)

Trades, Crafts, and Certification

Dan North says that programming is a trade, and not a craft.  I agree with him that it’s a trade, like plumbing and wiring.  I’ve already disagreed with his definition of craft.  I’d say that programming is a craft only when it’s done well.  I’d also say that plumbing and wiring are crafts when done well.  Rather than a definition, how about a couple examples to illustrate the point? (Continued)

Software Craftsmanship

Dan North has created a bit of a stir with his declaration that programming is not a craft. Liz Keogh has agreed with him.  The funny thing is that most of what they have to say is not about programming, but about the Manifesto for Software Craftsmanship.  Well, writing is a craft, also, and I’ll agree with Dan that this manifesto is not “a call-to-arms, feisty, opinionated, brash and everything that a good manifesto should be.”  It never grabbed me the way the Agile Manifesto did.  Dave Hoover has taken this challenge as a call to improve the software craftsmanship manifesto.

I didn’t “sign” the Manifesto for Software Craftsmanship because I thought it was particularly well written, though.  I signed it because I support the intent (as I perceive it, and which Ade Oshineye defends) behind that manifesto.  Writing software is a craft, and there are far too many people who don’t treat it that way. (Continued)

Testing in depth

In the late 1970s, in the Co-Evolution Quarterly, the magazine successor to The Whole Earth Catalog, Peter Warshall stated that geodesic dome houses always leak.  This was a bold and surprising statement at the time, coming from a man who was considered one of the finest builders of dome houses–ones that didn’t leak.

Why did he make this statement? (Continued)

More on Automated Acceptance Testing

Jim Shore has posted a response to the reactions about his previous post on Acceptance Testing in which he defends the way he and the teams he coaches are working.  About the same time, Lisa Crispin posted her thoughts on the topic.

As Lisa says,

I can’t tell you the one right way to test and develop software….  The one right way for your team to code and test will continually evolve over the years. In fact, I’m sorry to tell you that you’ll never find the one right way; it’s a moving target, but you’ll get closer and closer to it.

This is an incredibly important point!  There may be many “wrong” ways—wrong in that they fail to achieve your objectives—but there is no “right way.”  So I’m happy that Jim and his teams are able to achieve the results they want.  I’m not saying they’re doing it wrong. (Continued)

The Reality of Automated Acceptance Testing

Recently, Jim Shore wrote about The Problems With Acceptance Testing.  I like Jim, and respect him a lot.  Because of my respect for his opinions, I found it quite discouraging that he said, “I no longer use [automated acceptance testing] or recommend it.”  Gojko Adzic has posted his response to Jim.  This is mine.

Certainly when something’s not giving you the results you want, it’s time to make a change.  That change can be to drop the practice that’s not working for you.  It can also be changing the way you go about the practice, or changing what you want to accomplish.  Or, instead of changing, maybe the word “refining” is a better fit. (Continued)

3 Legs to Standing Up an Agile Project

Maybe you’re starting your first Agile project.  You’ve read books and blogs.  You’ve had training.  You think you’re ready, but it’s still a daunting prospect.  There’s just so much to remember—so many details.

Here’s a little cheat sheet.  Forget all the details and the various ways you can implement Agile for the moment.  Let’s simplify the picture.  There are just three essential legs that your Agile project needs to stand.  Get those in place, and you’ll do OK.  Keep improving all three, and you’ll do fantastically! (Continued)

The testers get behind at the end

It’s a very common complaint, such as this one left on the Scrumdevelopment yahoogroup:

Usually in different phases, workload for tester and dev is different. E.g. when a project is coming to the end, most of the tasks will be test.

There are a couple of big red flags waving at me in those two sentences.  One is “different phases.” Why should a software development project, especially one only a couple weeks to a couple months long, have phases?  The other is, at “the end, most of the tasks will be test.” Postponing testing to a phase at the end has never worked very well.  It always results in the testers being behind at the end.

Does this situation sound somewhat familiar to you?  If so, what can we do about it?


Testability & Good Design

Much of the time, the test-driven development yahoogroup is pretty quiet, but it has recently awakened from winter hibernation.  The question “Is it OK to add code to a class only to improve its testability?” stirred up a wide-ranging discussion that brought in the topic of what constitutes good design.  “Uncle Bob” Martin drew a bold line in the sand with his comment,

One reasonable definition of good design is testability.  It is hard to imagine a software system that is both testable and poorly designed.  It is also hard to imagine a software system that is well designed but also untestable.

I greatly sympathize with this statement, though I wouldn’t go quite that far.  I don’t think it is so hard to imagine code that is testable, but poorly designed.  For a trivial counter-case, there could be rampant duplication of testable code.  I would call that poorly designed, but it doesn’t affect it’s testability.  Therefore I would soften Uncle Bob’s definition to “One reasonable component of the definition of good design is testability.”

To me, the notion of “testable code” is the same thing that “testable circuit” was back when I worked on a custom integrated circuit.  Mostly, that depends on the ability to put the circuit or code into a known state, exercise it, and see the interactions with its collaborators and its resulting state. (Continued)