Enterprise-Wide Processes

Understand the challenges for large projects due to process and methodology departments and learn some solutions to address these.

Now, there is proof that the evolutionary approach to software development results in a speedier process and higher-quality products.
Alan MacCormackAlan MacCormack, “Product development practices that work: How Internet companies build software.” Cambridge: MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2001 in a side-bar quote, p.1., Harvard Review

Smaller companies almost always use flexible processes, which they define for each individual project. This shouldn’t really be called “defining” a process; a more accurate description would be that the process evolves—sometimes into something unrecognizable. Large companies instead always tend to define processes ahead of time. This enterprise-wide process is intended to serve all different projects of the organization.

The idea is great in theory because it should speed up the evolution of the process definition during project development. Moreover, if the process is known and established, it should be much easier for everyone involved to get a good understanding of the status of a specific project at any time.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to define a process that actually serves all different kinds of projects because projects are never alike. Projects differ in domain, duration, people, risk, and much more. The risk of an enterprise-wide process becomes, “if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.”

An enterprise-wide process tries to develop all projects in the same way and ignores that the benefit for one project could detrimental to another one. The only way we might succeed in defining an enterprise-wide process is by outlining it abstractly. This way, it can serve as a starting line for projects. It will always be the task of each project to adapt the process according to its needs.

Process and methodology department

In large companies, a separate department exists for developing and maintaining an enterprise-wide process: the process and methodology department. As with every cross-section department, this one is responsible for assuring that the enterprise-wide process is respected by each project. Usually, the projects have to prove that the process they are using is compliant with (certified) enterprise-wide processes. Ed YourdonLead developer of the structured analysis and design methods. He was a codeveloper of the Yourdon/Whitehead method of object-oriented analysis and design and the popular Coad/Yourdon OO methodology. calls this department the “methodology police.”

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