Conversations across software engineering forums sometimes reveal unexpected views, as it’s the case for the benefits of accountability.
One would assume that competition would impel enterprises to scrutiny with regard to resources employed and product outcomes, pushing for the assessment of internal activities based on some agreed metrics. And yet, now and again, software development is viewed as a boutique occupation, if not an art pursuit, carried out by creative craftsmen for enlightened if demanding patrons; a vocation too distinctive to be gauged by common yardsticks.
Difficulties of Oversight
Setting apart creative delusions, the assessment of software development is effectively confronted with rational as well as practical obstacles.
To begin with rationality, and unlike traditional products, there is no market pricing mechanism that could match software development costs with customers’ value. As a consequence business stakeholders and systems engineers prefer to play safe and keep their respective assessments on the opposed banks of the customer/provider divide.
As for the practicality of assessments, the choice is between idiosyncratic approaches (e.g users’ points) and reasoned ones (essentially function points). The former ones being by nature specific and subject to changes in business opportunities, whereas the latter ones are being plagued by implementation plights that make them both costly and unreliable.
Yet, the diluting of IT systems in business environments is making that conundrum irrelevant: the fusing of business processes and supporting software is blanketing the discontinuities between business value and development costs.
Perils of Oversight
Given the digital integration between systems and business environments and the part played by software in production, marketing and operations, enterprises can no longer ignore the economics of software development.
As far as enterprises are concerned, economics use prices for two key purposes, external and internal.
With regard to their business environment, enterprises need metrics to price the resources they could buy and the products they could sell; their competitive edge fully depends on the thoroughness and accuracy of both.
With regard to their internal governance, enterprises need metrics to gauge the efficiency of their factors and the maturity of their processes, and allocate resources accordingly. That internal assessment is the basis of their versatility and plasticity:
- Confronted to continuous, frequent, and often abrupt changes in business environments, enterprise must be able to adapt their activities without having to change its architectures. That cannot be achieved without timely and accurate assessments of the way their resources are put to use.
- Conversely, enterprises may have to change their architectures without affecting their performances; that cannot be achieved without a comprehensive and accurate assessments of alternative options, organizational as well as technical.
To summarize, the spread and intricacy of software footprint over both sides of the crumbling fences between enterprise systems and business environments makes software economics a necessary component of enterprises governance, so a tally of software beans should not be an option.