Read My Lips: Why?

Recently, a reader, commenting on my last post about Sure Step, pointed me to an article by Karl E. Wiegers
“Read My Lips: No New Models!” I initially responded to the comment, but I figure the comments aren’t read as often as posts, so I decided to blog it.

It’s doubly funny that the reader is using Dr. Wiegers to devalue and dismiss Sure Step: firstly, the article has really nothing to do with implementation methodologies at all, and secondly, when I delivered Sure Step training at WinDays pre-conf earlier this year, I gave to each attendant a copy of Karl E. Wiegers’s latest book “Practical Project Initiation”—at the time it was the best book available that matched both the message of my training and the point of Sure Step as a methodology.

I don’t mind people dismissing an idea or an approach, especially if they reaffirm their position with argument. I like good argument and I like being proven wrong as much as I like proving others wrong. But dismissing something one doesn’t know anything about, from pure prejudice, with no argument at all, while hiding behind an authority (which doesn’t even apply), is lame. On the other hand, Karl E. Wiegers provides very strong argument in his article, strongly affirms his position, and makes several good points.

However, as much as I value Dr. Wiegers’s work, I respectfully disagree with most of this article’s content. From the point of ERP system implementation, it simply doesn’t apply, or it applies to it as much as Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion apply to particle physics. From the point of software development, it’s a good article worth reading, but I’d dare saying it’s a little bit outdated—much of what it argues for was valid points ten years ago when it was written; today with formal methodologies far more in use, I feel this article is beating a dead horse.

Let me start with Sure Step itself. Sure Step is not about software development. It would be foolish to say it doesn’t have anything to do with software development—it does, it contains a phase called Development (only one of six phases)—but it doesn’t care about how you design, or how you test, or how you inspect code (the topics of the article), Sure Step doesn’t care whether you use UML or FMC or BPMN or plain flowcharts for your designs, it couldn’t care less about your testing framework choice; instead, Sure Step describes what needs to be done to achieve success. What Sure Step is about is Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM implementation process. There is a huge difference between software development and business management systems implementation. Confusing these two consistently drowns implementation projects. I’d like to blog about this more, but not today.

I believe that Dr. Wiegers’s article starts off with a very dangerous statement to make: “with a few exceptions, the software industry does not need any more models right now.” Whoops! Slippery out there, ain’t it?

Call me an idealist, but I believe in improvement (so does Dr. Wiegers), and I can’t subscribe to the point of view I quoted above. Throughout, this article conveys this position: before you invent anything new, make sure you understand and apply current methods. Although I’d say you don’t need to master hammer before you start using jackhammer, I’d generally agree that if somebody doesn’t understand methods at hand, and if that person is not applying them, and if that person doesn’t understand what exactly about them works, and what exactly doesn’t, that person shouldn’t be seeking better ways.

But what about other people, those who understand the methods, who apply them and learn from them? To simply throw this article into their face is arrogant at best. Dismissing an idea, a method, an approach, a point of view or anything else for that matter, up front and just based on a single point of view is shortsighted, counterproductive and plain wrong.

And that’s exactly what Dr. Wiegers says he has done to James Bach, a thoughtful and well-known figure in the software quality industry” the moment he started to explain his new testing model to him. I believe James Bach knows pretty well the existing models, and if anyone can and should research new models, it’s him and people like him. Yet, Dr. Wiegers simply dismisses his approach up front, as a generally wrong one. I don’t like this attitude. I am a challenger myself, and I like to put my advocatus diaboli hat on more often than not, but this is not a challenged idea, this is just naysaying and a pure progress-killer.

Sure Step isn’t a wheel reinvented. It doesn’t dismiss or declare war on any existing method—on the contrary: it draws from, and promotes existing frameworks, methodologies and best practices. PMBOK for project management, TDD for testing, these are just a few examples. Sure Step is not a new method, its combined knowledge and experience with existing methods, and their application to a very specific and a narrow field: implementation of Microsoft Dynamics solutions. You can’t develop web applications or business intelligence solutions using Sure Step, you can’t implement SAP or Siebel using Sure Step—it doesn’t apply to any of these although majority of methods and approaches included in Sure Step can apply to all of them. Sure Step is a specific methodology aimed at getting results in a specific field, and with very few other specific methodologies applying to that field and comprising so many useful and directly applicable tools and templates as Sure Step does, no one can tell me there is no place under the Sun for Sure Step. It’s not a “Yet Another Model” that “clutter[s] the market”, it has proven its value to many Microsoft partners and customers already.

Rebecka Isaksson wrote a nice blog post on Jonas Deibe’s blog about why there is need for Sure Step, and this proves to me that I am not the only one out there believing how valuable Sure Step really is. Also, Sure Step being the most searched for and read topic on this blog, despite the fact that it is only one of many topics I blog about, makes me trust there are many other people out there believing in the value of Sure Step as well.

To conclude, it’s not only about getting the job done (as the article might make you believe in its recap), it’s about getting it done better, faster, cheaper, more reliable, more predictable, you name it. If a method(ology) can bring this, then Read My Lips: How Can There Be No Room For It?

P.S. I wouldn’t be fair not to say that the reader whose comment made me write this post runs an excellent project management blog. I might disagree with one comment he made here, but his blog is worth an RSS subscription.


Vjeko has been writing code for living since 1995, and he has shared his knowledge and experience in presentations, articles, blogs, and elsewhere since 2002. Hopelessly curious, passionate about technology, avid language learner no matter human or computer.

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