Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Software Development Vs Construction of the house

A house is being newly constructed in front of my house. I have been watching this from the last few weeks. One day, I saw the owner with the architect at the site discussing about something for a long time. I am assuming the owner was trying to explain his requirement to the architect. After few days, I could see the plan with the architect and he discussing the same with owner and making corrections. After a while, I could see some construction workers starting their work by digging the foundation, building the house wall by wall. I know that this is pretty much the same process everywhere no matter where you are. Most of the time, the house gets constructed within the budget and within the time.

I was wondering, why can't we follow a similar process in Software development. In software too, we have the product owner, architects, etc. Why can't we deliver the software within the budget and on time (atleast 50% of the time).

I know we can't in software, here are some of my thoughts:

1. During house construction, there is mostly freezing of requirements during the initial stages

2. In waterfall model, freezing of requirements was tried and we know it was a failure. In agile methods, we tend to keep this open and ask the customer to prioritize and give the requirements.

3. Advantage in software development is, the customer can change his requirement at any time. So, there is a huge responsibility on the software architect to have a flexible architecture.

4. During house construction, since the requirements are frozen, there is a little room for the owner to change his requirement once the foundation is laid. It does not mean that the customer should not Or cannot change. But the key point to note here is "Cost of change" in house construction is more than in software development (assuming robust architecture is in place !!)