Lessons on software development from Henry Ford!


Two of my great fascinations since moving to Detroit 17 years ago are the Henry Ford Museum and the Greenfield Village in Dearborn. These two places truly capture America’s legacy of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation. The exhibits range from Presidential limousines to heroes of the sky and evolution of manufacturing as a science. However, in one obscure corner there’s the story of Gauge Blocks.

Invented by a Swedish scientist, Gauge blocks are a metal or ceramic blocks that have been carefully ground to produce precision lengths and are used for calibrating measuring equipment in machine shops (micrometers, sine bars, calipers, and dial indicators). They are the main means of length standardization used by industry.

1917 Ford Model T

With the concept to mass manufacture automobiles, Henry Ford realized the importance of inter-changeability of parts and precision measurement of components and sub-systems which go into the assembly of the car as the key to realizing his industrialization vision. As such Henry Ford acquired the company, C. E Johansson, Inc and moved its manufacturing facility to Dearborn.

Now, what has the above got to do with my story?

With digital business boom and the notion that “software is eating the world” in the global $508 billion IT software market, the importance of standardized measurement had never been as crucial as it is now. The growing complexity of software application development; globally distributed team, multi-layer, multi-technology, multi device platforms etc. means that it is almost impossible for any one person to understand the system as a whole let alone certify the fitness for use. Would you buy a yogurt from the shop with nothing written on its container? Software is no different and the day is not far when every single piece of software, built, bought or sold comes with a stamp featuring what‘s truly inside the box.

With more and more outages and high profile security breaches, businesses must understand and analyse software beyond the traditional approaches of automated software quality. Deeper system level analysis at the architectural level and at the integration layers is extremely important to gain visibility “under the cover”.

Well, the good news is that there is an equivalent of Gauge block for standardized measurement of IT. The Consortium for IT Software Quality (CISQ) is an IT industry leadership group comprised of IT executives from the Global 2000, system integrators, outsourced service providers, and software technology vendors committed to introducing a computable metrics standard for measuring software quality & size. CISQ is a neutral, open forum in which customers and suppliers of IT application software can develop an industry-wide agenda of actions for improving IT application quality to reduce cost and risk.

The big question is do we have CIOs with the visionary skills of Henry Ford for its wider adoption?

(Sankar Krishnan started his career as a Manufacturing Engineer at an automotive plant in India. After 11 years in the industry, Sankar moved to the IT industry. Based out of Detroit for the last 17 years he is an Executive at CAST Software, a leader in Software Analysis and Measurement with the responsibility of developing emerging markets in US & Canada)

Filed in: Technical Debt
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Sankar Krishnan
Sankar Krishnan Managing Director, Enterprise markets at CAST
As a trusted advisor of C-level and VP- level executives in the Application software space of a wide range of industries such as Manufacturing, Media & Entertainment, Transportation and Utilities industry, I help customers create a world class IT organization and drive their performance by providing visibility into their portfolio.
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