The best examples, is the source code for the NASA Space Shuttle. It is perfect software, or as perfect as human beings have achieved. The code is 450,000 lines long, with just one error each. Commercial programs of equivalent complexity would have 1,000 errors.
The NASA software gives the orders to adjust the main engines, executing the belly roll the shuttle does soon after it clears the tower. The software controls and adjusts the engines to make sure the craft doesn’t accelerate too fast. It keeps track of where the shuttle is, orders the solid rocket boosters to fall away, makes minor course corrections, and after about 10 minutes, directs the shuttle into orbit more than 100 miles up. When the software is satisfied with the shuttle’s position in space, it orders the main engines to shut down — weightlessness begins and everything starts to float.
What makes it remarkable is how well the software works. This software never crashes. It never needs to be re-booted. This software is bug-free. It is perfect, as perfect as human beings have achieved. This software is the work of 260 women and men based in an anonymous office building across the street from the Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake, Texas, southeast of Houston. They work for the “on-board shuttle group,” a branch of Lockheed Martin Corps space mission systems division, and their prowess is world renowned. The shuttle software group is one of just four outfits in the world to win the coveted Level 5 ranking of the federal governments Software Engineering Institute (SEI) a measure of the sophistication and reliability of the way they do their work. In fact, the SEI based it standards in part from watching the on-board shuttle group do its work.
Software Drives the Economy
In the history of human technology, nothing has become as essential as fast as software. Virtually everything — from the stock market and power plants to telephone and equipment — runs on software. In office buildings, the elevators, the lights, the water, the air conditioning are all controlled by software. In cars, the transmission, the ignition timing, the air bag, even the door locks are controlled by software. In most cities so are the traffic lights. Almost every written communication that’s more complicated than a postcard depends on software; every phone conversation and every overnight package delivery requires it.
According to SEI’s studies, nearly 70% of software organizations are stuck in the first two levels of SEI’s scale of sophistication: chaos, and slightly better than chaos. The situation is so severe, a few software pioneers from companies such as Microsoft have broken away to teach the art of software creation. We’ve developed software products that are enormously complex and enormously powerful. We’re critically dependent on it. That is why the world seeks better performance, controls and results. That is MVI goal to improve. We are not perfect, but we are getting better every day. Our Bangladesh work force is a dedicated team of programmers who have good educational background and years of experience. The goal is to never make the same mistake twice.
What’s going on in the MVI offices is the kind of nuts-and-bolts work that defines the drive for group perfection. A direction that is aggressively intolerant. There are no superstar programmers. The whole approach to developing software intentionally designed not to rely on any one person but based on knowledge and adhering to standards. And that is precisely the point — you can’t have people freelancing their way through software code. MVI staff have to channel their creativity into a development process that works.
The process that MVI has developed allows staff to live normal lives, to set deadlines they meet, to stay on budget, to deliver software that does exactly what it promises. It’s the process that defines what these coders Bangladesh. It’s the process that offers a template for creative enterprise seeking a methodology that produces consistent quality.