Computing That Serves

Human Dynamics of Software Development


Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 11:00pm


Neil Harrison, Avaya Labs

Managing software development is like herding cats. The problem is that software is developed by people, for people, and people are not well-behaved like bits are. It's no wonder that software projects are consistently late, expensive, and plagued by problems. Yes some organizations consistently produce high-quality software, often at blinding speed! What is their secret?

Over the last ten years, we have studied software development organizations in order to learn the characteristics of successful organizations. We have found that the structure of an organization -- the roles and relationships among those roles -- is a major factor in an organization's effectiveness. We have captured these stuructural characteristics as patterns. This talk will explore our research, and will present some of the most notable patterns.


Neil Harrison is a distinguished member of technical staff at Avaya Labs, where he currently develops software for the Avaya Call Manager product line. He has been involved in software development for over 20 years, including both development and research. He and colleague Jim Coplien have studied software development organizations for ten years, and are publishing this work in "Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development," to be released this summer.

Neil has been a leader in the software patterns community since 1994. He has taught patterns courses, published patterns and was lead editor of Pattern Languages of Program Design vol. 4. He is acknowledged as the world's leading expert on shepherding of pattern papers, and has a shepherding award named after him. He is currently on the board of directors of the Hillside Group.

Neil graduated from BYU with a BS in computer science, as a University Scholar with High Honors. He has an MS from Purdue University, also in computer science. In his spare time, he enjoys music and mountaineering. He is a volunteer instructor of the Boulder Mountaineering School, in the Boulder chapter of the Colorado Mountain Club