The myth of code-centricity

Break through productivity barriers with a new software model

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In 5GTs like SI, the emphasis is no longer on code. It's on how well the user interface can match the user's mental model and work habits. In a nutshell, emphasis is now firmly on congruence. We need to start at the user's mental model, work backward to the user interface, and work still further backward to the software architectures needed to support congruence. Please note that this is not the same as UI-centricity, because we start at the mental model and overhaul the architecture to match that model as transparently as possible.

Some may claim that SI is still code-centric. Rubbish. SI users (including developers) will talk excitedly about favorite parts, tools, clever connections, systems they assembled in a day, cool sample systems, and part patterns on the Net. More than 99 percent of our time will be at the abstract level of what our tools are showing us.

For my vision of the path SI will blaze to post-fifth-generation tools, check out the "Vision of the Post-Fifth-Generation Tool" sidebar at the end of this article.

100 percent pure happiness

A note about what matters most: not only is productivity a problem, so is human happiness.

How many times have you heard someone gripe about his or her software? How many software tools have you grown to "love to hate" because of bugs, low usability, broken promises, and high prices? How many user communities do you suspect lack the tools they need and suffer in a make-do fashion, because what they need is not profitable for vendors? How often does programmer burnout strike? How many users and programmers are frustrated rather than happy? How much of this is due to consciously or unconsciously having to fight with an incongruent tool?

Someday software use will be as common as a smile, as computers penetrate every detail of our lives, in all countries and economic levels. Should system creation be limited to highly trained developers or should computer literacy encompass the ability to create most of your own systems?

Jack Harich has been a consultant since 1975, helping companies in areas like corporate planning, IS design, process improvement, project management, general software development, framework design, and employee training, as well as telling better jokes. His recent clients include the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Delta Airlines, and ApplianceWare. In 1997, after years of seeing software developers and organizations reinvent the wheel over and over, Jack conceptualized futuristic scenarios of the best way to develop systems from the user's and developer's visual viewpoints, then worked backwards from there to do what's possible with today's technology. From that vision emerged his emphasis on two things -- reuse and process -- with radical but sensible approaches to both.

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