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by Mark Trescowthick - GUI Computing
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Most RAD programmers will at least have heard of Steve McConnell, I would hope. His book, "Code Complete" is perhaps the bible on programming in the RAD environment. So when someone pointed out his latest effort, "Rapid Development", was about managing the process (something I allegedly do every day) I knew it was a 'must read'. The fact that the someone was GUI's Director of Software Development Jim Karabatsos, and that he plonked it on my desk and said "Read This!" had nothing to do with it.......

I was right, and so was Jim. I read most of it in one or two sittings, sitting semi-stunned as Steve took me through just about every management problem in the RAD world I'd faced, complete with theoretical underpinnings for actions, alternatives and general good sense.

Let's take a step or two back here... Managing RAD development (and managing the clients of RAD development) is (or rather, was) a bit of an inexact science. I've been doing it, in one form or another, since about 1988 and, though I'd certainly evolved some strategies and techniques which seemed to work pretty regularly, much of what I did was, I'll admit, trial and error - especially in the early days.

And even recently, one major problem was explaining to clients the why of how we developed something. I lacked, if you will, that most essential of client-management tools - A Methodology.

I guess what impressed me about McConnell's approach was that he didn't start out looking for the Mythical Methodology for RADů what he did was apply his outstanding brain, lengthy experience and a huge dose of good old fashioned common sense to come up with a book which should be considered the Bible for RAD Project Managers.

The book itself is a bit schizoid. The first half is a series of chapters on various problems or techniques, which combine anecdote, statistic and even the odd cartoon to give a readable overview of the various RAD development techniques, when they might be deployed and their costs and benefits. This section is a genuinely entertaining read, in my opinion (but then, maybe I'm just sicků). The second half is a reference covering the gamut of techniques in (sometimes excruciating) detail. This section is great to dip into when you're trying something new, or need to check a fact.

In short : I've bought all GUI's Senior Developers their own personal copies, I've read the book twice myself and I really can't understand how any RAD Project Manager or Technical Lead could possibly not benefit from a careful read.

Thoroughly recommended indeed.

Rapid Development. Steve McConnell. ISBN: 1-55615-900-5 Microsoft Press

Written by: Mark Trescowthick
May '97

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