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Semat moving forward

Dear Signatories, Supporters and Friends of Semat,

Just about one year ago, we three old friends (Bertrand Meyer, Ivar Jacobson & Richard Soley, or as we are playfully called, the Troika) decided to band together to as we said “to re-found software engineering as a rigorous discipline.  We recognized that the natural tendency in our field is to perturb systems minimally into approximate correctness, but this path cannot be sustained any longer if we are to support the computing industry and help it meet the demands of society. We need to restart on a solid basis, taking advantage of all that has been learned in software engineering theory and practice over the past five decades.”

We called the new initiative Software Engineering Methods & Tools (Semat), and focused initially on a call for action. We gave a broad definition of some of the problems the young, impetuous software engineering field faces: it relies on fashion and fads, it lacks a theoretical basis; it has a huge number of methods which are hard to compare; it needs experimental evaluation and validation; it suffers from a split between industry practice and academic research and so on. We also envisioned a solution – one based on a solid theory, proven principles and best practices that includes a kernel of widely-agreed elements, addresses both technology and people issues, is supported by industry, academia, researchers and users, and supports extension in the face of changing requirements and technology.

We were pleased, honored and gratified to find that in quite short order, a dozen corporate and academic organizations and some three dozen well-known individuals from the field of software engineering and computer science were prepared to be signatories to and supports of our vision.  Moreover about 1400 other supporters have agreed to our call.

As the first step towards realizing our vision we captured our understanding of the problem, the potential, and a vision for the next year in the Semat Vision Statement (http://semat.org/documents/20181/27952/SEMAT-vision.pdf/16059a36-a0ba-4405-b883-4a11a2131cea).  Since the vision statement was published some six months ago, some two dozen people have volunteered significant amounts of time and effort to help bring that vision to life–to support a shared idea of software methodologies, based on rigorously well-understood and comparable practices built on a kernel set of universals and a language to define and compose those practices.

An amazing amount of useful material has been developed by this volunteer group, which has met physically a scant three times (though much more often by electronic means), using exclusively donated resources (not only time, but electronic support, documentation and so forth).  The time has come to make the effort more professional, rigorous and structured.  It was always the intent of the Troika to bring any results from the Semat process to an international standardization body at some point, and we believe that the time has come.  Obviously given the relationship of the Semat effort to standard methodology and modeling languages — and the history of some of the Troika members — the Object Management Group (OMG, http://www.omg.org/) is the obvious place to house the effort; OMG offers an open, transparent governance model.  Over the next few months, the Troika will work with the OMG to begin the process of developing a standard along the lines of the Semat Vision Statement.

This does not mean that the Semat working groups will slow or stop.  In fact, the OMG standards process fits the needs of Semat precisely because it is not a traditional standards organization; rather, it develops requirements documents and issues calls to the industry to propose solutions.  The current Semat working group and its members will clearly be party to that effort as submitters to the OMG process once it begins.

Even as the results of Semat are moved under the OMG umbrella, Semat itself will continue as the self-organizing community it has become. Although fundamental, the kernel is only the first step in realizing the Semat vision, more is to come. Semat will also respond to the longer-term aspects of the call for action.  It will provide the platform for addressing other aspects of software engineering such as a) integration with other efforts such as SME, SPEM, OPF, EPF, UP, SWEBOK and CMMI, b) creating a sound theoretical basis for the work, c) experimentally evaluating and validating the practices, d) developing a library of (potentially competing) practices, etc.

We thank you for your support for our initial vision, and hope that you will actively engage in Semat going forward as well as the OMG standardization effort as it gets underway.

Best regards,
The Troika

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