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Pimp my software
· 2009-06-23 09:00 by Thijs Kroesbergen for Brokenwire.NET

Everyone who has done some (serious?) software development knows that we have several different methods to run our project. We also know that not all methods are equally successful. But one of our favorite things to do is compare our ways of doing things with others in the more “traditional” trades.

So a little while ago I was watching MTV’s "Pimp My Ride", and then I was thinking, what would software development look like if we did it the “Pimp My Ride” way?

So let’s see what that would look like. For those of you who don’t know the Pimp My Ride TV show, it goes like this:

The show starts by showing a teenager with a banged up car. That car gets picked up by the shows host and brought to a garage. Then a team of mechanics goes wild on the car by remodeling it completely. Then the owner is brought in, the car is presented and a happy guy (or girl) leaves the shop with a new ride. If you want to see this for yourself, take a look at the MTV website.

Now let’s break that down into the parties involved. The core group of people involved is of course the team of mechanics. This team designs and builds the car. The way this team is composed is that several people with different specialties are brought together in the right mix. In our world this would be team of highly skilled software engineers. This way each member should have its own specialty like data-access, user interfaces and such. Perhaps the most important thing to notice is that all team members are involved from start to finish.

Then there’s the host of the show, he gets to pick up the car, monitor the work on it and deliver it back to the owner. In the software development world this could be the project manager with a bit of help from some sales guy perhaps.

Last but not least we have the owner of the crappy car. This is comparable our customer, who has a problem (a crappy car, or some complex business process) and needs someone to solve it for him.

That wraps up the parties involved, now lets move to the process.

At the start of each episode (project) the old car gets picked up from some lucky bastard by the presenter of the show, a rapper known as “Xzibit”. They chat a bit and X gets a pretty good idea about the likes and dislikes of the car’s owner. This translates to an combination of sales and analysis. There’s communication with the customer, and both the scope and the requirements are set. For example, the owner drives a VW Beetle (scope) and likes to sing (requirement).

Once this is done the car is brought back to the garage and the whole team gets to take a good look at it. Then they sit together and each specialist tells what he thinks that needs to be done to the car.

Lets see how that meeting works out…

Paint specialist:

“I’m gonna put on a base layer of toxic green paint, and then I’ll airbrush some hot flames on the side of this wicked car!”

User Interface guy:

“I’m going to design a WPF based interface with nice glowing buttons which animate on mouse-over”

Engine tuner:

“Let’s upgrade the engine so it can do 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds! For that I’ll use this nice turbocharger kit.”

Database guru:

“I recommend that we store our data in a clustered SQL Server database, and we’ll use LINQ for our data access layer. This way we will have performance and speedy development all at once!”

You get the point ;). This meeting is like the project kickoff. Here the architecture is determined and the individual components are defined.

Then they get to work. Each specialist does what he does best, and they work together as the gears of a well oiled machine. Sometimes they encounter something unexpected, but with all the knowledge they have on board they will continue to deliver the finished product right on schedule. This is actually exactly the same thing that is (or should be) happening in any software delivery process.

Finally during the last minutes before the car’s owner arrives the finishing touches, such as polishing the car, are applied. Then the big unveiling takes place, and a happy customer leaves the building.

“You’ve officially been pimped”

The handover of the car’s keys translates to the delivery phase in our world. This where the happy customer accepts the finished product. And a happy customer is what we are aiming for!

To conclude this rant, lets see why this “Pimp My Ride” process should work for software as well:

But of course there are some differences as well, so why doesn’t this work for software?

It looks like this comparison doesn’t hold up too well (but I had fun trying it anyway). I do think that we like to over-complicate things because with software it’s so easy to create anything our mind can come up with. And because of our human nature we just love to try stuff that hasn’t been done before. Perhaps, given some more time and thought, the expectations for software will become just as clear as the expectations we have of a car.

So what do you think? Does any of this make sense? Is building software harder then building a custom car? Are we spoiled by all the options we have and do we over-complicate?

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