Practical Software Measurement

Remembering Ware Myers

Ware Myers died at home peacefully on Friday afternoon July 22, 2011 after a very short period of increasing frailty.

Many of you do not know Ware Myers.  He and I collaborated on four books and many articles about software measurement, estimating and control.  Most of these writings included both our bylines.

Our collaboration begain in 1980 with a tutorial book for the IEEE Computer Society, Software Cost Estimating and Life-Cycle Control: Getting the Software Numbers.   I wrote the text and pulled together pertinent articles from the field.  Ware, on behalf of the IEEE,  put it together, edited it and made it into a handout book for the COMPSAC 1980 tutorial I presented in Chicago October, 1980.  He then suggested that we do a regular book together because he had become very interested in software estimating and management and was trying to get his Ware Myers Writing Service launched.  

The result of this effort was Measures for Excellence: Reliable Software On Time, Within Budget.  Tom DeMarco wrote the Foreword to this book.  I’d like to quote a little of what he had to say:

“ . . . In the sixties and seventies we were metric novices. We would occasionally gush enthusiasm over the possibility of measuring productivity as lines of code per programmer-day.  And then we would come face to face with any of the absurdities that this definition of productivity led us to “Arrghhhh . . . this stuff is harder than it looks.”

In the eighties, we went back over the same ground, but more carefully. We introduced new metrics and new approaches, specifically some project simulation modeling. We used computers and statistical tools to manage these increasingly large data bases of historical data.

In each of these metric eras, the name Larry Putnam stood out.  During the earlier period, he was a young colonel working in the Army’s MIS office, trying to get some sort of statistical handle on how software development worked.  Though the metrics used in those days were weak, Larry was beginning to spot some interesting trends.  He amalgamated a truly colossal statistical portrait of our industry, drawing together data from the Army, DOD contractors, and the Rome Air Development Center database.  During the second era, Larry broke new ground in modeling the software process.  He was the first to develop a true time-dynamic model of the many ways a software project might proceed.

While Larry was making a name for himself in quantification, Ware Myers was making his own reputation as a man who could take a complicated idea and express it with elegant simplicity. Your typical reaction after reading a Myers piece (in Computer or IEEE Software magazine, for example) was “Mmm . . . this stuff is simpler than I would have believed.”  In my own case, I often felt that the thing I just learned from reading Ware Myers was something I always understood.

If ever there was a complicated idea that could benefit from an elegant and simple presentation, it is software quantification.  So it was good news when Putnam and Myers began working together in the early eighties.  This book is the result of their long collaboration.”

Three more books followed: Controlling Software Development (1996), a simple, no-math book designed to be read in a single airplane ride;  Industrial Strength Software: Effective Management Using Measurement (1997);  and Five Core Metrics:  The Intelligence Behind Successful Software Management (2003). The last two books developed ideas that were touched on only briefly in Measures for Excellence.

Ware’s education was that of an engineer.  He graduated from Case Institute of Technology with an MS from University of Southern California.  He served in WW II in the Navy and reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander by the time the war was over. For many years he was a member of the engineering staff in high technology corporations, notably Scientific Data Systems and its successor company Xerox Data Systems.  During much of this time he was also a lecturer in engineering organization and administration in the School of Engineering, University of California at Los Angeles. Since 1976, he has been a consulting writer for several major corporations and a contributing editor of Computer and IEEE Software magazines published by the IEEE Computer Society.

Some 35 odd years ago Ware retired from his formal work, and began his writing career with his Ware Myers Writing Service.  That’s how I met him while he was doing some editorial work for the IEEE Computer Society.

Here is what his son Paul had to say about his interests during the latter part of his life,

"The opportunity to work and write with so many very talented people across the software field from his mid-sixties into his nineties was the great professional delight of his life. He worked at various memoirs after his final retirement."

Throughout his 98 years, Ware led a very productive life.  I was very sad to learn of his passing.  He was more than a business associate to me – more like a brother.  We did a lot together.  He made the books and articles we did together good.  They worked well for QSM.  They established our credibility  and spread the word about software measurement, estimating and control. Clearly Ware was a great help to QSM in publicizing the key ideas in quantitative software management.

We will miss him.

-Larry Putnam, Sr.

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