When I see how the age of dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is still being pro­claimed around me, how appar­ent­ly no IT project can do with­out colour­ful notes, woolen threads and group loi­ter­ing, doubts grow in me as to whether we are on the right track. I increas­ing­ly get the impres­sion that the whole thing is large­ly a sub­sti­tute action to deny the real prob­lem.

Dig­i­tal com­put­ers are them­selves more com­plex than most things peo­ple build; they have very large num­bers of states. This makes con­ceiv­ing, describ­ing, and test­ing them hard. Soft­ware sys­tems have orders of mag­ni­tude more states than com­put­ers do. 

Fred­er­ick P. Brooks, Jr.

I am con­vinced that the devel­op­ment of soft­ware and the intro­duc­tion of IT sys­tems with effects on peo­ple and their actions is non-triv­ial and there­fore a high lev­el of com­plex­i­ty is sys­tem-inher­ent. Lit­tle has changed since the paper “No Sil­ver Bul­let — Essence and Acci­dent in Soft­ware Engi­neer­ing” by Fred Brooks: Nei­ther devel­op­ments in pro­gram­ming lan­guages nor the intro­duc­tion of agile meth­ods can change this sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

Like­wise, a scal­ing-up of a soft­ware enti­ty is not mere­ly a rep­e­ti­tion of the same ele­ments in larg­er size; it is nec­es­sar­i­ly an increase in the num­ber of dif­fer­ent ele­ments. In most cas­es, the ele­ments inter­act with each oth­er in some non­lin­ear fash­ion, and the com­plex­i­ty of the whole increas­es much more than lin­ear­ly.  The com­plex­i­ty of soft­ware is in essen­tial prop­er­ty, not an acci­den­tal one. 

Fred­er­ick P. Brooks, Jr.

Deal­ing with sys­tem-inher­ent com­plex­i­ty requires mea­sures oth­er than nega­tion. “Just do it” isn’t a good advice when we try to build solu­tions that are sus­tain­able, take into account data pro­tec­tion and infor­ma­tion secu­ri­ty, and want to ensure that we did not over­look sig­nif­i­cant errors at crit­i­cal points. There is a dif­fer­ence between gen­er­at­ing and test­ing ideas quick­ly and build­ing a robust and main­tain­able solu­tion.

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