Thursday, March 16, 2006

March 20, 2006


PLEASE NOTE: This is the third part in my series of essays on the history of Systems Development. This week's issue will discuss events prior to and including the 1970's.

Although the MIS movement of the 1960's was noble and ambitious in intent, it floundered due to the size and complexity of the task at hand. Many MIS projects suffered from false starts and botched implementations. This resulted in a period where a series of new methods, tools and techniques were introduced to reign in these huge development efforts.

The first was the introduction of the "methodology" which provided a road map or handbook on how to successfully implement systems development projects. This was pioneered by MBA with its "PRIDE" methodology in 1971. Although the forte of "PRIDE" was how to build systems, it was initially used for nothing more than documentation and as a means to manage projects. Following "PRIDE" was John Toellner's Spectrum I methodology and SDM/70 from Atlantic Software. Several CPA based methodologies followed thereafter.

Also during this time, mainframe based Project Management Systems were coming into vogue including Nichols N5500, PAC from International Systems, and PC/70 from Atlantic Software.

The early methodologies and Project Management Systems give evidence of the orientation of systems departments of that time: a heavy emphasis on Project Management. Unfortunately, it was a fallacy that Project Management was the problem; instead people simply didn't know how to design and build systems in a uniform manner. As companies eventually learned, Project Management is useless without a clear road map for how to build something.

In the mid-to-late 1970's several papers and books were published on how to productively design software thus marking the beginning of the "Structured Programming" movement. This was a large body of work that included such programming luminaries as Barry Boehm, Frederick P. Brooks, Larry Constantine, Tom DeMarco, Edsger Dijkstra, Chris Gane, Michael A. Jackson, Donald E. Knuth, Glenford J. Myers , Trish Sarson, Jean Dominique Warnier, Generald M. Weinberg, Ed Yourdon, as well as many others. Although their techniques were found useful for developing software, it led to confusion in the field differentiating between systems and software. To many, they were synonymous. In reality, they are not. Software is subordinate to systems, but the growing emphasis on programming was causing a change in perspective.

The only way systems communicate internally or externally to other systems is through shared data; it is the cohesive bond that holds systems (and software) together. This resulted in the introduction of Data Dictionary technology. Again, this was pioneered by MBA with its "PRIDE" methodology (which included a manually implemented Data Dictionary) and later with its "PRIDE"-LOGIK product in 1974. This was followed by Synergetics' Data Catalogue, Data Manager from Management Software Products (MSP), and Lexicon by Arthur Andersen & Company.

The intent of the Data Dictionaries was to uniquely identify and track where data was used in a company's systems. They included features for maintaining documentation, impact analysis (to allow the studying of a proposed change), and redundancy checks. "PRIDE"-LOGIK had the added nuance of cataloging all of the systems components, thereby making it an invaluable aid for design and documentation purposes.

The Data Dictionary was also a valuable tool for controlling DBMS products and, as such, several adjunct products were introduced, such as UCC-10, DB/DC Data Dictionary, and the Integrated Data Dictionary (IDD) from Cullinet. Unlike the other general purpose Data Dictionaries, these products were limited to the confines of the DBMS and didn't effectively track data outside of their scope.

DBMS packages proliferated during this period with many new products being introduced including ADABAS, Image, Model 204, and IDMS from Cullinet (which was originally produced at BF Goodrich). All were based on the network-model for file access which was finally adopted as an industry standard (CODASYL).

There were a few other notable innovations introduced, including IBM's Business Systems Planning (BSP) which attempted to devise a plan for the types of systems a company needed to operate. Several other comparable offerings were introduced shortly thereafter. Interestingly, many companies invested heavily in developing such systems plans, yet very few actually implemented them.

Program Generators were also introduced during this period. This included report writers that could interpret data and became a natural part of the repertoire of DBMS products. It also included products that could generate program source code (COBOL predominantly) from specifications. This included such products as System-80 (Phoenix Systems), GENASYS (Generation Sciences), and JASPOL (J-Sys of Japan), to mention but a few.

MBA also introduced a generator of its own in 1979 - a Systems generator initially named ADF (Automated Design Facility) which could automatically design whole systems, complete with an integrated data base. Based on information requirements submitted by a Systems Analyst, ADF interacted with the "PRIDE"-LOGIK Data Dictionary to design new systems and, where appropriate modify existing systems. Because of its link to LOGIK, ADF emphasized the need to share and reuse information resources. Not only was it useful as a design tool but it was a convenient tool for documenting existing systems. The only drawback to ADF was that the mindset of the industry was shifting from systems to software. Consequently, program generators captured the imagination of the industry as opposed to ADF.

The increase in computer horsepower, coupled with new programming tools and techniques, caused a shift in perspective in MIS organizations. Now, such departments became dominated by programmers, not systems people. It was here that the job titles "Systems Analyst" and "Programmer" were married to form a new title of "Programmer/Analyst" with the emphasis being on programming and not on front-end systems design. Many managers falsely believed that developers were not being productive unless they were programming. Instead of "Ready, Aim, Fire," the trend became "Fire, Aim, Ready."

Data Management organizations floundered during this period with the exception of Data Base Administrators (DBA's) who were considered the handmaidens of the DBMS.

The proliferation of software during this decade was so great that it gave rise to the packaged software industry. This went far beyond computer utilities and programming tools. It included whole systems for banking, insurance and manufacturing. As a result, companies were inclined to purchase and install these systems as opposed to reinventing the wheel. Among their drawbacks though was that they normally required tailoring to satisfy the customer's needs which represented modification to the program source code. Further, the customer's data requirements had to be considered to assure there were no conflicts in how the customer used and assigned data. After the package had been installed, the customer was faced with the ongoing problem of modifying and enhancing the system to suit their ever-changing needs.


OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"Having a Project Management system without a methodology is like attaching a speedometer to an orange crate; it measures nothing."


The Quality Assurance Institute will be holding its 26th Annual Quality Conference at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, FL on April 24th - 28th. For information, contact the Institute in Orlando at 407/363-1111.

The World Conference on Quality and Improvement will be held May 1st-3rd at the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee, WI. For information, contact the American Society for Quality at 800-248-1946 or 414/272-8575.

The 15th World Congress on Information Technology will be held May 1st - 5th in Austin, TX. For information, call 512/505-4077.

The 17th International Conference of the Information Resource Management Association will be held May 21st-24th at the Wyndham Hotel in Washington D.C. For information, call IRMA headquarters in PA at 717/533-8879

The National And State CIO Association will be holding their 2006 Midyear Conference at The Capital Hilton, in Washington, DC on May 31st-June 2nd. For information, contact NASCIO headquarters in Lexington, KY at: 859/514-9153

If you have got an upcoming IRM related event you want mentioned, please e-mail the date, time and location of the event to


Years ago when I was in High School, I studied Spanish. Basically, I was taught how to simply translate the language. I had problems with this at first since we were not given any insight into the philosophy of the Spanish language; for example, the language's use of the feminine and masculine gender, the expression of singular and plural, etc. It wasn't until I figured out the language's sentence structure did I start to really catch on. I wish I had taken a class in Latin before taking Spanish which would probably have better prepared me.

Having said this, let's consider how we teach programming today which, frankly, is no different. Most programming classes simply concentrate on coding which I consider a translation function. Very few describe the philosophy of programming and how to properly engineer a program. To me, the language itself is irrelevant; it is the logic of the program that should be of paramount importance.

If you have been listening to my series on the History of Systems Development, you have probably heard me describe the development of the first four generations of programming languages. This is something that is typically not taught in a programming course, but should. I am not suggesting we teach students Machine Language, Assembly Language, or whatever, but, rather, why these languages were devised and the fundamental principles behind them.

What worries me is that the schools are producing more translators or coders and less software engineers.

But then again, what do I know?

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


I received an e-mail from a Mike Jomes of New York who wrote me regarding last week's essay on "Part II of the History on Systems Development."
Mike writes:

"You implied that something was wrong with using a DBMS as an access method. Could you elaborate on this?"

Thanks Mike for your note,
There is nothing wrong with using a DBMS as an access method, but understand this is not what they were originally designed for. The real intent of these products is to share and reuse data, thereby integrating systems. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Programmers tend to redefine data requirements for each program thereby compounding the redundancy problem. Anybody who uses a DBMS as nothing but an elegant access method is missing the boat.

Again, Thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

Folks, don't forget to check out our BRYCE'S CRASH COURSE IN MANAGEMENT which is a free on-line multimedia presentation offering pragmatic advice on how to discharge the duties of a manager, whether it be for a commercial or non-profit enterprise. Frankly, for someone aspiring to be a manager or for a new manager, it will be the best 45 minutes you can invest in yourself. Check it out on the cover of our corporate web page at:

For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2006 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."



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