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Model-Driven Development: Where are the Successes?

Ulrik Eklund published a summary of the keynote speech from Jon Whittle at the SPLC 2010 conference. In his talk, he presented some findings on experiences from using model-based development in industry from the EA-MDE project. The project is interested in understanding the factors that lead to success or failure with model-driven engineering (MDE) to help design the next generation of MDE tools. This question is not new, two years ago, Sven Efftinge, Peter Friese and Jan Köhnlein published an article "MDD best practices and Johan Den Haan, CTO of Mendix, published an article on the how an MDD initiative could fail. Adopting an MDE approach can be quite daunting. Then, Johan concluded his article by:

It’s not my goal to discourage you from starting with model-driven software development. I just wanted to show you the complexity of it and wanted to share some thoughts hopefully pointing you at directions helping you to overcome the complexity of MDE.

Two weeks ago he also published an article on his blog detailing the lessons he learned while building a Model Driven Software Factory and he reiterated the same skepticism:

I see Model Driven Software Development as an important part of the future of software development. However, I also see a lot of people struggle with actually using Model-Driven techniques and applying them in their daily business. It isn't trivial to build a successful Model-Driven Software factory (MDSF).

The question is actually quite popular. Last week, Marco Bramballi and Stefano Butti also published a presentation on the same topic while applying BPM and MDD to a Large Scale banking scenario with BPMN, WebML and WebRation.

In his talk, Jon provided some key success factors of a successful MDE approach, as he identified as part of his research:

  1. Keep the domains (modelled, I assume) tight and narrow.
  2. Target well known domains.
  3. Put MDD on the critical path (he means that pilot projects never get sufficient attention and resources).
  4. MDD works best form the ground up.
  5. Be careful of gains that are offset elsewhere.
  6. Don't obsess about code generation.
  7. Not everyone can think abstractly.
  8. Most projects fail at scale-up
  9. Match tolls and processes to the way people think, not the other way around

In their articles, Swen, Peter and Jan also warned:

Our most important recommendation for the reader is: be pragmatic. DSLs and code generators can, when used appropriately, be an immensely useful tool. But the focus should always be the problem to be solved. In many cases, it makes sense to describe certain, but not all, aspects using DSLs.

Even though MDE is still evolving quite rapidly, Jon reports that 83% of the EA-MDE survey respondents "consider MDE a good thing". 

After over a decade of Model Driven Architecture, Development and Engineering and which itself followed some rich Model Driven Development environments like NeXTStep that emerged in the early late 80s, models are everywhere, yet, in such a small quantity that our industry seems to still be looking for the path that will make Model-Driven approaches mainstream. Are we really in the position of defining "lessons learned" or "best practices" with so few successes reported? What is hampering us? Is it the focus and precisions of the model? Is it lack of tools? standards? Is is the level of abstraction that make it difficult for most people to create a viable software factory? What's your take on it? 

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