e-Talk Radio: Mazzucco, Frank, 3 October 2000


everybody laughed, and he said that's the real problem. And we're talking to Frank Mazzucco of COMPASS America, who knows probably more than most of us, through his client involvement and work for the last 30 years in the software development industry, about what software quality means, and what it's becoming. So welcome back, Frank.

Frank: Thanks, Carol.

Carol: We were talking a bit about what's going on in universities and colleges, and really why we have a problem in defining requirements, why we have a problem in software processes. And I was just going to ask you a final question before we move to the next kind of questions, Frank, and that is, do you think it's easier to teach business people the technical skills, you know, how to program and that type of thing, if they know the business, or is it easier to teach computer people the business skills, or is it a combination?

Frank: Well, Carol, it really has to be a combination. And a lot of that gets sort of honed in on an individual's own aptitude and own preferences. However, I think what we're seeing in the software engineering world is yes, you still need to have technical skills, but the days of the strictly technical only person, where somebody could sit in a corner and just grind out C code or C++ code or another language code, week after week, month after month, year after year, with no involvement with anybody, the sort of concept of you have a programmer over there and you just throw some raw meat into the cubicle every one in awhile and the code comes out. There's less and less of a need for that sort of thing, because software isn't this little esoteric thing that sits off in the corner by itself anymore. You may operating systems software and things like that that are less directly involved with human beings, but software's a part of our life everywhere. One of the things we were talking about before is just how much software is in a car, for example, like you said. Software in things like the baggage handling system at the Denver airport. Everybody knows about the situation at the Denver airport, that it was delayed in opening for I don't know how many months, six months, nine months, basically because of the software problems related to the automated baggage handling system. So to the extent software touches people more and more, you're going to need to have those people skills. Now, is it possible to take business people and teach them the technical side? Yes, you can do some of that, to the extent that we move to more and more high-level languages for specifying computer systems, for specifying software, we can do that. And the reality is, there are some situations where you can have business people developing software, there are other situations where you need highly technical people, and in most situations, you need some combination of the two, where you have a business analyst who fulfills more of the people skills role and translates in a very proficient and adept fashion those requirements into something that the technical programmer can then implement. But the real answer is that across that whole spectrum, whether it's business people or technical people, what you really need is good, sound processes, like I said, good, sound blocking and tackling skills across the whole software development lifecycle.

Carol: Now, I've heard from some people who have been system developers and programmers and artistes and creators and Java programmers

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