Friday, November 26, 2010

Winston W Royce - Father of waterfall

 Uncle Bob posted an article, What killed waterfall could kill agile. He mentioned about a person named Dr Winston W Royce (whom uncle bob called the "Father of waterfall") who published a paper,  Managing the Development of Large Software Systems: Concepts and Techniques, in which a system of developement now know as the Waterfall model was described.

 What shocked me in that paper was not that he advocate the waterfall model, but rather he condemns it. In his own words
"I believe in this concept, but the implementation described above is risky and invites failure".

 The funny thing is so many generations of programmers who studied in colleges and university were brought up believing that it was one of (or depending on how old you are) or "the" model of how software actually gets built. Now we know better, that's why we have things like the Agile movement, Kanban and so on

 If you read the paper, you will discover he has views on how to improve the process and what is surprising is how similar it is to practices that we are advocating today.

His 4th and 5th recommendation looked remarkably like Agile practices.

 Step 4: Plan, Control and Monitor Testing
Code inspection
He advocates the use of code inspection by a second party, he said the use of computers would be too expensive for this task. But with the computing power we have today. Software like Findbugs or JTest can help in the first line of bad code detection and Pair Programming helps in that aspect too.

 Code Coverage
Code coverage is also advocated in fact he advocates testing every logical path if possible and if he is the customer he would not accept delivery until this step is done. Although he acknowledges the difficulty in accomplishing this step for large programs.

 Step 5: Involve the customer
He knows that software design and specifications is open to a wide interpretation even after agreements, customer involvement in his words should be "formal, in-depth and continuing". 

 Let's not remember Winston W Royce as "Father of the waterfall" but rather one who saw how software development could be done better 40 years ago.  


  1. I'm a college professor and I have my students reading the original paper and discuss with the concepts presented there. Remember that his view was influenced by the type of software development he was involved in.

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