Thursday, March 23, 2006

March 27, 2006

PLEASE NOTE: This is the fourth part in my series of essays on the history of Systems Development. This week's issue will discuss events prior to and including the 1980's.

As big iron grew during the 1960's and 1970's, computer manufacturers identified the need for smaller computers to be used by small to medium-sized businesses. In the 1970's, people were skeptical of their usefulness but by the 1980's their power and sophistication caused the "mini" computer to gain in popularity as either a general purpose business machine or dedicated to a specific system. Among the most popular of the "mini" computers were:

  • IBM's System 36/38 series (which led to the AS/400)
  • DEC PDP Series (which gave way to the DEC VAX/VMS)
  • Hewlett-Packard's HP-3000 series with MPE
  • Data General Eclipse series with AOS

The competition was fierce in the "mini" market which resulted in considerable product improvements and better value to the customer. Instrumental to the success of the mini was the adoption of UNIX as developed by Bell Labs, a powerful multi-user, multitasking operating system that eventually was adopted by most, if not all, mini manufacturers.

But the major development in computer hardware was not the mainframe, nor the mini; it was the "micro" computer which was first popularized by Apple in the late 1970's. IBM countered with the its Personal Computer (PC) in the early 1980's. At first, the micro was considered nothing more than a curiosity but it quickly gained in popularity due to its inexpensive cost, and a variety of "apps" for word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, and desktop publishing. This caught on like wildfire as micros spread through corporate desktops like the plague.

By the mid-1980's the "micro" (most notably the PC) had gained in power and sophistication. So much so, that a series of graphical based products were used for software development in support of the Structured Programming movement of the 1970's. Such tools were dubbed "CASE" (Computer Aided Software Engineering) which allowed developers to draw their favorite software diagramming technique without pencil and paper. Early CASE pioneers included Index Technology, Knowledgeware, Visible Systems, Texas Instruments, and Nastec, as well as many others. CASE tools took the industry by storm with just about every MIS organization purchasing a copy either for experimental use or for full application development. As popular as the tools were initially, there is little evidence they produced any major systems but, instead, helped in the design of a single program.

Recognizing the potential of the various CASE tools, IBM in the late 1980's devised an integrated development environment that included IBM's products as well as third parties, and entitled it "AD/Cycle." However, IBM quickly ran into problems with the third party vendors in terms of agreeing on technical standards that would enable an integrated environment. Consequently, the product ran aground not long after it was launched. In fact, the prosperity of the CASE market was short-lived as customers failed to realize the savings and productivity benefits as touted by the vendors. By the early 1990's, the CASE market was in sharp decline.

Instead, companies turned to Programmer Workbenches which included an all-in-one set of basic tools for programming, such as editing, testing, and debugging. Microsoft and Micro Focus did particularly well in offering such products.

Data Base Management Systems also took a noticeable turn in the 1980's with the advent of "relational" products involving tables and keys. The concept of the "relational" model was originally developed by IBM Fellow and mathematician Edgar (Ted) Codd in a paper from 1970. The concept of a relational DBMS was superior to the earlier network and hierarchical models in terms of ease of use. The problem resided in the amount of computer horsepower needed to make it work, a problem that was overcome by the 1980's. As a result, new DBMS products such as Oracle and Ingres were introduced which quickly overtook their older competitors. There was an initial effort to convert DBMS mainstays such as TOTAL, ADABAS, and IDMS into relational products, but it was too little, too late. As for IBM, they simply re-labeled their flagship product, IMS, as a "transaction processor" and introduced a totally new offering, DB2, which quickly dominated the DBMS mainframe market.

Program generators continued to do well during the 1980's but it was during this period that 4GL's (fourth generation languages) were introduced to expedite programming. The 4GL was a natural extension of the DBMS and provided a convenient means to develop programs to interpret data in the data base.

Another development worth noting is the evolution of the Data Dictionary into "Repositories" (also referred to as "Encyclopedias") which were used to store the descriptions of all of an organization's information resources. One of the motivating factors behind this was IBM (for AD/Cycle). IBM realized they needed some sort of cohesive bond for the various CASE tools to interface. This is another area pioneered by MBA who introduced their "PRIDE"-Enterprise Engineering Methodology (EEM) to study a business and formulate an Enterprise Information Strategy, and their "PRIDE"-Data Base Engineering Methodology (DBEM) to develop the corporate data base, both logically and physically. To implement these new methodologies, their "PRIDE"-LOGIK Dictionary was expanded to include business models, and data models. By doing so, MBA renamed "PRIDE"-LOGIK the "PRIDE"-IRM (Information Resource Manager) which complemented their overall concept of Information Resource Management.

In terms of the MIS infrastructure, two noteworthy changes occurred; first was the introduction of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) as first described in the popular book, "Information Systems Management In Practice" (by McNurlin and Sprague) in January 1986. Basically, the MIS Director is elevated to a higher management level where, theoretically, he/she is operating on the same level as the Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for a company. In reality, this has never truly happened and, in many cases, the title "CIO" is nothing more than a change in name, not in stature. The second change is the change in job title of "Programmer" to "Software Engineer." Again, we are primarily talking about semantics. True, many of the programmers of the 1980's studied Structured Programming, but very few truly understood the nature of engineering as it applies to software, most were just glorified coders. Nonetheless, the "Software Engineer" title is still actively used today. In contrast, the last of the true "Systems Analysts" slowly disappeared. Here too is evidence of the change of focus from systems to software.

During the 1980's we also saw the emergence of MBA's graduating from the business schools and working their way into the corporate landscape. Although they didn't have an immediate impact on the systems world, they had a dramatic effect on the corporate psyche. Their work resulted in severe corporate cutbacks, downsizing, and outsourcing. This changed the corporate mindset to think short-term as opposed to long-term. Following this, companies shied away from major systems projects (such as the MIS projects of the 1960's) and were content tackling smaller programmer assignments, thus the term "app" was coined to describe a single program application.

Interestingly, a "quality" movement flourished in the 1980's based on the works of W. Edwards Deming and Joseph M. Juran who pioneered quality control principles in the early part of the 20th century. Unfortunately, their early work was unappreciated in America and, consequently, they applied their talents to help rebuild the industrial complex of postwar Japan. It was only late in their lives did they receive the recognition of their work in the United States (after Japan became an economic powerhouse). Another influential factor was the introduction of the ISO 9000 standard for quality management which was originally devised by the British and later adopted as an international standard. Little attention would probably have been paid to ISO 9000 if it weren't for the fact that European businesses started to demand compliance in order to conduct business with their companies.

Nevertheless, these factors resulted in a reorientation of American businesses to think in terms of developing quality products which, inevitably, affected how systems and software were produced. The real impact of the quality movement though wouldn't be felt in the systems world until the next decade.

To summarize the 1980's from a systems development perspective, the focus shifted away from major systems to smaller programming assignments which were implemented using newly devised CASE tools. This fostered a "tool-oriented approach" to development whereby companies spent considerably on the latest programming tools but little on management and upfront systems work. In other words, they bought into the vendor's claims of improved programmer productivity through the use of tools. Unfortunately, it resulted in patchwork systems that required more time in maintenance as opposed to modifying or improving systems. "Fire fighting" thereby became the normal mode of operation in development.


OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"Beware of your firefighters, they are probably your chief arsonists."


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


Like many of you, I have subscribed to a number of magazines and newspapers over the years. One of the things that always bothered me was how my subscription rates steadily rose over the years. I would see ads for these same publications attracting new subscribers with lower prices and offering free radios, calendars, shirts, or whatever. For the existing customers; nothing. I always thought there should be some of incentive for loyal customers; you should get some sort of price break for longevity, such as 10, 20, or 30 years of loyal patronage. But unfortunately that is not the case. Instead, if you want any real price break, the publications want you to cancel your subscription, then order a new one at the new low rate with all of the freebies. But then again, what am I going to do with another radio or calendar?

I guess its all a numbers game and the publications are counting on us not grousing about the escalating prices.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


I received an e-mail from a Jeff Faber in Wyoming who wrote me regarding last week's essay on "Part III of the History on Systems Development."
Jeff writes:

"You make an interesting point on the relationship of methodology to Project Management. I always thought they were synonymous."

Thanks Jeff for your note,
No, a methodology and project management are most definitely not synonymous. The acid test of a methodology is if it can still be used without project management. Let's take one of the "PRIDE" methodologies as an example, I don't care which one, and let's also suppose we weren't interested in estimating, scheduling, or controlling project expenditures. Even without all of this, you could still execute the methodology and produce something of substance, such as an information system. This is why we regard a methodology as another form of an assembly line, and project management as a production control function. This is also why we see project management is dependent on a methodology, but a methodology is independent of project management. I hope this clears it up for you.

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.

If you have any questions or would like to be placed on our e-mailing list to receive notification of future broadcasts, please e-mail it to

For a copy of past broadcasts, please contact me directly.

We accept MP3 files with your voice for possible inclusion in the broadcast.

Management Visions accepts advertising. For rates, please contact yours truly directly.

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."



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home