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Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Ever Relevant Brooke's Law

Rajesh points to this Fortune interview with the legendary Fredrick Brooks. It was in The Mythical Man-Month that Brooks made the now-famous statement: "Adding people to a late software project makes it later", widely known as "Brooke's Law." Brooks' deconstruction of what went right and wrong became a must-read among tech and nontech execs; dog-eared copies are still passed around. The best known passages expose flaws in the then common use of "man months"—the tool (okay, gender-biased tool) for estimating project cost and length. A 12-man-month project might have three people assigned to it for four months; if delays set in, managers simply added more people. Brooks proved that doing so increased bureaucracy and training, leading to Brooks' law: Adding people to a late software project makes it laterIn addition, Brooks is known for No Silver Bullet,an essay on software engineering. Brooks argued that there won't be any more silver bullets, i.e., no technologies or practices would create a 10-fold improvement in software engineering productivity over 10 years(this was in 90's). He was the most vocal in bringing forth the distinction between accidental and essential complexity. Accidental complexity is problems that we create on our own and can be fixed. Essential complexity is caused by the problem to be solved, and nothing can remove it. The problem, he claimed with software engineering is that we have cleaned up much of the accidental complexity, and the rest cannot be changed. For decades there is always the war between declarative and procedural languages – Currently, business rules engine proponents talk about this in a big way .
Brooks now thinks that the problems of managing people in teams have not changed, though the medium in which people are designing and the tools they are using have. Some people have called the book the "bible of software engineering." - in one respect right - everybody quotes it, some people read it, and a few people go by it.I am seeing brooke's to be quite relevant- as I see it first hand in hundreds of engagements even today. Clearly relevant all times,as the Vista experience confirms.

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