Monday, November 20, 2006

November 27, 2006


A few years ago, I knew an IT Manager in New England who worked for a pharmaceutical company. At the time, he was staffing up for a major systems project and was trying to recruit programmers for the assignment. The salaries he was offering were very generous (perhaps too much). Nonetheless, I remember he had one candidate who was qualified for the job, liked the money, but turned the IT Manager down claiming he didn't like the job title; he insisted on being called a "Software Engineer" as opposed to a mere "Programmer." The IT Manager was not in a position to change job titles and, consequently, the two couldn't come to terms.

I thought this particularly odd as I knew the assignment and had met the candidate. How the two had anything to do with the engineering of software is beyond me. Although large in scope, the application was basically a "meatball" operation with a simple data base. Further, some simple visual programming tools were to be used. In other words, it was unlikely the programmer was going to have to roll up his sleeves and dive deep into any source code. As to the candidate, he claimed a good track record with other companies, but I saw nothing in his portfolio that led me to believe he was a certified engineer by anyone's standards.

The industry has been talking about "software engineering" for the last three decades. The term is primarily used by programmers who are desperately seeking credibility in an industry that changes daily. Frankly, people use the term "engineer" to make themselves appear more important than they really are.

Now we are hearing terms like "Enterprise Engineer" and "Data Base Engineer", etc. Are these legitimate concepts or just another passing fad? Let's take a look.


In simple terms, engineering is the planning, design and development of an object; e.g., buildings, products, machinery, etc. Different branches of engineering have been devised and are based on the subject areas they address; for example, civil, chemical, electrical, mechanical, are but a few. Within any engineering discipline, there are three objectives :

1. To produce a RELIABLE product or object that will satisfy requirements and perform according to specifications.

2. To produce a product or object that is easy to MAINTAIN and MODIFY.

3. To physically implement the product or object in the most PRACTICAL, EFFICIENT, and COST EFFECTIVE manner possible.

To this end, engineering applies scientific knowledge towards these objectives. This last point is critical; it means there are agreed upon scientific principles that can be taught and used in a consistent manner. And this is where the problem lies. There are very few agreed upon scientific principles in the systems development world. Most development organizations operate under the "Tower of Babel" phenomenon where confusion reigns, producing inconsistent results. So much so, that we can hardly call it a science and, hence, terms like "engineering" are invalid. A science is based on governing principles that are generally accepted by an industry and can be taught to others. Heck, this industry can't even differentiate between "data" and "information" or "systems" and "software," let alone establish a full-bodied science. Quite frankly, the industry's terminology is sloppy and its concepts lack consistency.

Nonetheless, we must persevere if we are ever to gain any legitimacy.

Back in 1970, my father, Milt Bryce, was the keynote speaker for the Data Processing Management Association's (DPMA) annual conference in Seattle, Washington. During his speech, he discussed the lack of standards in the industry and called upon DPMA (later to become the AITP) to establish such standards. Although his talk was well received by the attendees, regretfully, DPMA didn't respond to the challenge and nothing was accomplished. Further, little has been produced along these lines by standards groups such as ISO or ANSI, or any other trade group.

This is why, 34 years after Milt's speech in Seattle, we finally put the "PRIDE" Methodologies for IRM in the public domain via the Internet; so that the industry has a solid starting point for establishing standards. "PRIDE" has been used all over the world in just about every field of endeavor imaginable. Further, it has survived several generations of competition. All of this has forced us to fine tune the concepts and terminology in "PRIDE," making it a battle-tested approach suitable for standardization.

Under "PRIDE", we believe Information Resource Management (IRM) to be a science based on some very sound and fundamental principles which are fully articulated in the product. With such a strong governing foundation, it is our contention that Information Resources can be engineered. In fact, we see four engineering disciplines, each with a different focus on the IRM puzzle:

ENTERPRISE ENGINEERING - is that branch concerned with developing logical and physical models of the business. This includes documenting and analyzing business functions, administrative relationships, and performing an organizational analysis. Based on this, Enterprise Engineering is also used to identify information requirements and establish the priorities for business objectives, along with their supporting projects.

INFORMATION SYSTEMS ENGINEERING - is that branch concerned with the design and development of enterprise-wide systems, complete with business processes. This is based on a standard system architecture that is designed, developed and implemented in a manner similar to the development of any product. Further, a blueprinting approach is used for document systems.

SOFTWARE ENGINEERING - is considered a subset of Information Systems Engineering and is concerned with the design and development of the software components in an Information System.

DATA BASE ENGINEERING - is that branch concerned with design and development of the corporate data base, both logically and physically.

Like all other engineering disciplines, these four IRM practices have the following objectives:

1. To produce a RELIABLE product or object that will satisfy requirements and perform according to specifications.

2. To produce a product or object that is easy to MAINTAIN and MODIFY.

3. To physically implement the product or object in the most PRACTICAL, EFFICIENT, and COST EFFECTIVE manner possible.

In other words, I believe it is legitimate to use the term "engineering" as long there is a science supporting it (whereby concepts and terminology are fully defined and accepted). If there is no governing science supporting it, use of the term 'engineering' is fraudulent and misleading.


Normally in any engineering discipline, a person must be certified to claim the title and work in such a capacity, such as the title "PE" (Professional Engineer)." Certification is used to define a person's level of expertise. Since engineering is based on science, and the study of science is an ongoing process, the engineer must periodically renew their certification. As long as we resist certification, we will continue to be viewed as illegitimate misfits by management.


Use of the terms "engineering" and "engineer" are flippantly used throughout the computer industry. So much so, such terms are no longer taken seriously by management.

As long as we continue to argue over the concepts and terminology of this profession we will never be taken seriously by corporate management. Instead, we will be seen as nothing but a bunch of boobs rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

This is sad as there are many of us in the industry who honestly believe it to be a legitimate profession based on scientific principles.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "If there is no governing science supporting it, use of the term 'engineering' is fraudulent and misleading."


Friends, the "PRIDE" Methodologies for Information Resource Management (IRM) is a common sense solution for Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, and Project Management. The methodologies include defined work breakdown structures, deliverables, and review points that promote quality and the production of industrial-strength information systems. Building information resources is a science, not an art form. Our methodologies clearly explain the concepts that govern them, which remarkably, is derived from engineering/manufacturing practices. Now you can get these acclaimed methodologies for free at our corporate web site at:


The Association of Management Consulting Firms will be holding their 60th Annual Meeting on December 6th-8th at the Harvard Club in New York City. For information, contact AMCF headquarters in New York at 212/551-7887 or visit their web page at:

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


We've just introduced a new free service for managers to perform a self-analysis of their style of management, including leadership and corporate culture. Check it out at:


Also be sure to check out our new "MBA Daily Productivity Analyzer" which is a free calculator to evaluate a person's personal productivity during the day. It is also available at our corporate web site.


Its been a long time since the United States had twice a day delivery of our mail; now I'm lucky if I get twice a week mail service from our post office. We moved into our current offices about five years ago. We're located on the edge of the Dunedin postal territory and we're just less than a mile from the Palm Harbor post office (both Dunedin and Palm Harbor are in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area). This has confused our customers for a number of years. Whereas we are situated within the city limits of Palm Harbor, we're zoned for the Dunedin post office. Don't ask me why, they just do things a little different down here.

Ever since we moved in, I noticed our letter carrier would deliver our mail at his leisure. Some days we would get mail, some days we wouldn't. Its not uncommon for us not to see our letter carrier for several days. This became so irritating, we renting a post office box at the Palm Harbor post office which we can easily get to. The mailman still comes by at his leisure, usually late in the day. But a couple of years ago, he had an accident which incapacitated him. For several months he was replaced by substitutes who did a marvelous job of delivering the mail; they were prompt and actually quite pleasant. Well inevitably, our guy got better and returned to work and our regular mail service was interrupted again.

I've called the Dunedin post office a couple of times to talk to the supervisor and complain about our letter carrier's performance. He always comes to his defense and says it must be our problem, not the letter carrier's. In other words, he had no intention of correcting the problem. I guess the postal workers are a pretty tight fraternity.

All I can say is, thank God we've got the Palm Harbor post office box, otherwise we wouldn't get any mail.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


Folks, we've just released a new book on management entitled, "The Bryce is Right! Empowering Managers in today's Corporate Culture." This is a frank and candid description of the state of the art in management and includes essays on the problems in management today, along with some pragmatic advice on how to deal with them. Basically, this is a condensed course in management. As such, it is suited for managers, either those aspiring to become a manager or for those who need a refresher course. It will also be of interest to young people entering the work force, and is excellent for college curriculums.

Charles Cole of Lyndhurst, OH, said it is a "Very interesting book. Good work! It reminds me of some of the early works I read by W. Edwards Deming. Too bad the American corporate gurus of his day didn't pay him heed."

And Wolf Hager of Fort Myers, FL, says it is "A very impressive publication which requires careful reading and reminds me somewhat of Peter Drucker."

The price is just $20 plus tax. For more information on our book or to order on-line, see:

We have also just produced a new one-day training program of the same name. For more information on both the eBook and course, please visit our web site at:

While there, look for our new MS PowerPoint presentation describing both the book and the training program.


I received an e-mail from an AC Kemper in Ohio who wrote me regarding last week's pet peeve, "How does the O.S. affect productivity?"

AC writes:

"I'm also surprised how people blindly follow Microsoft. Any time I talk about other products, all I get are blank stares. People think MS is the center of the universe and simply don't know there are other better solutions out there. BTW, I also liked your comments about VMS and OS/2; they were some very fine products."

Thanks AC for your note,

I like to call Microsoft the "Howard Johnson's" of the I.T. industry (with apologies to Howard Johnson's). They are never the best, nor the worst, just predictably mediocre, but they sure know how to sell their products. I always chuckle when I hear people describe Bill Gates as a technical genius; a Marketing genius, Yes, but a technical genius? Hardly. Microsoft's forte has been their ability to study market trends, understand the consumer, and manipulate the consumers' interests accordingly.

Having seen a lot of things over the years, I have never seen anything Microsoft has done to be "state of the art." As a small example, the upcoming release of Windows Vista is supposed to include speech enablement so you can issue commands to your computer. I'm sure we'll see a lot of marketing glitz over this feature alone. Nonetheless, speech enablement was included in OS/2 Warp version 4 ten years ago. Maybe MS will do a better job of selling the concept than IBM did.

And, Yes, I also enjoyed VMS. It was a great o.s.; industrial-strength, easy to use and learn, and had some incredible features. It was on VMS that I began to use e-mail and their e-telephone, which was back in the early 1980's.

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

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

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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