What's in a Name?
Master architect and engineer Don Bruno was approached by his apprentice Monty Python who said to him, “Master, I have seen you follow the Past Face methodology in almost all of your previous projects of building museums, while this time, when you are required to build the most spectacular bridge this city has ever seen, you have adopted the Fast Pace methodology. Could you please explain why you chose the one over the other?”
Master Bruno, amused by the incredulity of the young Monty Python replied, “Remember, Python, that all of our past projects were museums – we could design and build them at our leisure. Our workers knew what to expect and the city knew that we would give them a good product. So, they did not meddle in our affairs. The experience we gained building museums has helped us refine our Past Face methodology, so we could follow it for building all of our later museums with only a few minor changes to our work methods. This project, the bridge, you see... it is unlike any of our museum projects. The city needs the bridge by next Autumn and we are already approaching Winter! We need to design and build fast, before the city changes its mind regarding the plans they approved last month. They know not what they want, given the absence of a bridge in this city, so we need to educate them. We can do that only by showing them that this bridge we are going to build, does indeed meet all of their expectations even if they do not know it yet. The city might even use the new bridge to start new trade route with our neighboring city, after they elect a new government next Autumn. This means that we need to understand, design and build fast, making sure that the city is constantly in the know of our developments.
Besides this, our workers need a rest and I promised them a season off, if they can complete this project on time. It should now be apparent to you, after my lengthy explication of the contrasts between this and our previous projects, that we approach each project with a fresh outlook, and choose our methodology, tools and techniques of building in ways that best suit the project. Hence, my dear Python, the need for the Fast Pace methodology, instead of the Past Face methodology. You must remember too, that the techniques for building those beautiful arches of the museums can be gainfully employed in building the lower supporting arches of our bridge.
“Do not be stuck on names! What's in a name! Names come and go. What matters is what we need to do, how it should be done and doing it using the best people, methods and tools possible.”
Moral: A methodology is a set of guidelines that help a development team gather and analyze requirements, develop a design and implement the system using the design. The guidelines also (ought to, in the case of complete methodologies) enable the analyst to understand and capture the environment in which the system operates, including technical, political, legal and other possible aspects, all of which are going to have an impact and/or would be impacted by the system upon its introduction in an organization. A methodology provides techniques for capturing and documenting, in the form of diagrams and written text, the facts as they are captured, analyzed and translated into a feasible design. A complete methodology also allows for the use of more than one method of physical implementation and should indeed be independent of the physical implementation. A methodology is only a set of guidelines – no more and no less; organizations would do well if they can understand several methodologies and choose to follow those methodological guidelines (which may, sometimes, be drawn from more than one methodology) that best suit them, while ensuring that these guidelines are neither internally inconsistent nor incompatible with the organizational culture and environment. A methodology cannot really control the development process in and by itself – its guidelines need to be followed to the best possible extent in order to reap the benefits that they offer (assuming, of course, that the chosen methodology is indeed suitable, given the constraints of time, cost, speed of development, (in)formality of documentation standards and interactions with the client, the involvement of the client, the complexity of the project, the skillsets and maturity levels of the developers). Strict adherence to the guidelines of a methodology would not automatically determine the success of a project. Only the efforts of the development team, which are managed by a competent project leader who knows which guidelines to adopt, which to adapt and which to avoid, based on the project's unique situation, can lead to successful completion of an information systems project.
These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.