The Uncomfortable Truth of Software Engineering

The Uncomfortable Truth of Software Engineering - Ivar’s talk at Chalmers University

When Dr. Ivar Jacobson was awarded the Gustaf Dalén Medal by Chalmers University in 2003, at the age of 63, you could be forgiven for thinking it would be a fitting tribute to a distinguished career in software engineering; that the next steps would be lazy afternoons playing golf and watching the grandchildren get older.

But that isn’t how Ivar saw things - rather than receiving this award and resting on his laurels, he kept looking around at what was happening in software, and what he saw troubled him.

Despite the advances made in engineering and technology, software itself is an immature discipline, dominated by behaviours more reminiscent of a craft than the engineering profession many assumed it was (and arguably should be!).

In Ivar’s words, “we looked like the fashion industry”, and:

  • We had a war of methods, and we were relying on gurus rather than experts
  • We had no common ground between methods
  • We lacked credible experimental evaluation and validation
  • We had a split between industry practice and academic research

This realization spurred Ivar into action. Rather than settling into retirement, he set about searching for a theory that would help elevate software engineering to a fully-fledged engineering discipline - and thus, Essence was born.

He didn’t do this alone. He set up his company, Ivar Jacobson International, and surrounded himself with top software engineers from around the world[1]. He founded together with professor Bertrand Meyer and Richard Soley a community called SEMAT (Software Engineering Method and Theory) with the mission to revolutionize the troubled software engineering discipline, and got support from a large number of luminaries from the whole world[2]. He also got a large number of well-known corporations[3] as well as academic institutions[4] to sign up for the initiative. The SEMAT community grew to over 2,000 members and proposed to Object Management Group what eventually became a standard with contributions from hundreds of OMG members.

Today, Essence is helping teams and organizations rise above the conflict of method wars, select the practices that work for them, and use the power of gameplay to help teams maximize their efficiency.

Get started with Essence here:

Take a look at the Use Case 2.0 eBook here:

[1] Ian Spence, Pan Wei Ng, Ed Seidewitz, and Kurt Bittner, to name a few
[2] Dean Leffingwell, Scott Ambler, Ken Schwaber, Pekka Abrahamson, Tom Gilb, Barry Boehm, Ian Sommerville, Philippe Kruchten, and many more
[3] IBM, Microsoft, Ericsson, ABB, Fujitsu, Huawei, and TCS
[4] Chalmers, Peking, Johannesburg, KTH, FAU, Twente, Colombia, and others


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