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Presentation: Martin Fowler and Dan North Talk Over the Yawning Crevasse of Doom

by Abel Avram on Aug 13, 2008 | NOTICE: The next QCon is in San Francisco Nov 3-7, Join us!

In this presentation filmed during QCon London 2007, Martin Fowler and Dan North talk about the communication gap existing between the developers and the customers or users. Closing this gap is extremely important in order to create successful software.

Watch:  Martin Fowler and Dan North Talk Over the Yawning Crevasse of Doom (1 hour)

Usually, those who request a software to be built and those who actually build it belong to two different worlds, using different jargons and having different ways of approaching software. That creates a crevasse in communication between the two sides which can doom a project. Martin gives an example of such a gap by quoting a study which says that a significant part of the features delivered for a system were never used. Some members of the development team built features never used because they did not clearly understood what was requested from them.

How can we close a gap? Martin and Dan offer two options:

  1. Ferry. A ferry could go between the two sides of the gap in order to connect them. Such an example would be an analyst which would constantly make the trip between the business people and the development team, and would "translate" the communication between the two.
  2. Bridge. A bridge between the sides would directly close the communication gap, offering a much larger bandwidth and a strong connection. Anyone would use a bridge rather than a ferry over a crevasse.

Martin and Dan favor the bridge, and they show why using it is helpful for the success of the project. They also talk about the tools to be used. Some of the examples are:

  • Conversations can inspire new ideas, new requirements.
  • Motivation is an essential part of the process. Bad communication will undermine motivation.
  • Ubiquitous language helps bridge the gap between the business people and the developers by giving them a common language which helps them understand each other.
  • DSL allows business people to read through code and understand what is going on, so they can spot misinterpreted requirements.
  • Feedback plays an important role in communication. The gates should be kept opened so feedback comes in.

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Great presentation! by Stephen Cresswell

Shame it's cut short by (what I assume to be) a few minutes

Partly Disagree by Sara Jay

I think I would not go as far as to say that the BA (Business Analyst) does not need to be the middle man in software projects. The set of tasks that developers need to do , every day become increasingly bigger and bigger - Architecting, Design, Coding, Unit Testing, Integration Testing, Memory Profiling, Learning on new technologies, Versioning, etc. etc. This makes them impossible to remove the ferry man and create a direct bridge between the business and developers. A techno functional BA must be present to write the requirements documents and translate between jargons, so that developers can atleast go home by 12.00 Midnight. You see, if developers come to work cursing, because they are not getting enough work-life balance, that is not a good thing either.

However, there has to be workshops on a regular basis (perhaps every couple of weeks) between the developers and the business so that the developers get a feel of what the business really wants out of a project.

On other days, the ferry man's duty is translation, adding functional ideas to the business folks and giving them to the developers, so that developers concentrate on their core activities.

Re: Partly Disagree. by Sara Jay

But one thing that I like, is Martin Fowler's way of presenting concepts, either in his books or at a talk. Simply phenomenal!! I used to like Josh Bloch's presentation skills. Martin Fowler is just as good, if not better.

Keep it up Martin!

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