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Part I: Understanding PBE > Defining Patterns-Based Engineering

Chapter 1. Defining Patterns-Based Engineering

Beginnings are tough. Where to start? Is the necessary expertise available? Will we finish on time? Will the quality be there? Will everyone on the project follow best practices? Will the team get a chance to be creative while using and improving their skills? Are the requirements really known and understood?

As software engineers, we find ourselves asking such questions whether we are working on a greenfield project or maintaining a legacy application. Often the answers are not to our liking. As we start the project, we often joke about missing deadlines and are anxious about whether we will get the job done. Experience has taught us that the road ahead is going to be difficult and frustrating. To quote Grady Booch: “Software development has been, is, and will remain fundamentally hard.”[1]

[1] Booch (2007).

We know that we are not alone. We need to improve how we deliver our software projects. We need to improve productivity, enhance quality, hasten time to market, have better governance, and do all of this while dealing with a challenging set of constraints,[2] such as not enough expertise, daunting timelines, ambiguous and changing requirements, and ever-increasing solution scope and complexity.

[2] For a look at a selection of notable software failures, refer to Charette (2005).

Over the years we have tried to take steps to address these issues. We’ve adopted Agile processes, as who wouldn’t want their projects to be more agile? We’ve tried model-driven development (MDD); as they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” We’ve incorporated the leading industry frameworks, including .NET and Java EE, as well as the frameworks within these domains that further support our efforts, including Spring, Hibernate, and JavaServer Faces (JSF). We’ve adopted the best approaches to development as they’ve emerged, such as object-oriented (OO), component-based development (CBD), and service-oriented architecture (SOA). We’ve outsourced and off-shored, looking outside our organization for support, skills, and cost management. However, we continue to come up short—all while the complexity of what we are asked to build continues to advance.

This book discusses Patterns-Based Engineering (PBE), an approach to software development. It is not the silver bullet; it is not the magic elixir that will cure all that ails our projects. However, PBE, as demonstrated in real-world projects, takes a systematic and disciplined approach to using patterns—proven, best-practice solutions—to deliver software. A key and unique aspect of this approach is that in addition to using existing patterns from the community, we identify and create patterns within the organization, codifying, automating, and leveraging our own best practices. Organizations that have adopted this practice have seen improved productivity, increased quality, better utilization of expertise, and improved governance.

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