Assessment of OO
In May 1990 the Object Interest Group (OIG) was formed to understand
and assess object oriented technology, to get hard
evidence to support the assessment and to enable member
companies to position the technology in their IT strategy. In 1991 they reached the shared conclusion that object orientation
was potentially one of the most powerful technologies
ever to become available to the IT industry and its
users. As such it would demand high calibre management.
It was not a panacea but a high-power tool, dangerous
if misused but capable of great things.
Here is a summary of the rest of their findings from their initial assessment of OO ...
The aim of the technology is to enable software production
to mature to a state analogous to the production line
in engineering manufacturing. This has evolved through
the concept of standard components from which the main
assembly is built, without the need to be concerned
with their internal working. This allows for the continuous
improvement in component design and the production
of different but conformant (e.g. variations in car
model - but still a car!) products from the line.
A parallel evolution has never occurred in software
because IT models the business with programs separated
from data. There is no unit of software equivalent
to the engineering component. The nearest, the program,
is not effective. If a business process changes, both
the program and data modelling it usually change.
The data change then affects other programs not related
to this business process. The effect of change is
widespread throughout the system.
Object orientation defines a new unit of software 'the
object'. Each object models a real entity in the business
by encapsulating the data that describes the entity
together with the logical processes that define the
services provided by the object. The object is now
equivalent to the engineering component and its services
are equivalent to component behaviour. This enables
a more natural model of the business. Objects provide
'firewalls' preventing the effects of business changes
spreading uncontrollably. Over time an ever growing
model of the whole business evolves in the form of
an inventory of objects that can be reused in many
different applications. Eventually most of the new
applications' software needs will be assembled from
the inventory, making the IT operation far more responsive.
Competitive edge in the 90s will depend on the ability
of the IT operation to reach out to wherever the business
wants to go and to integrate rapidly existing and new
functions to meet the local needs of the workplace.
The need is also to make employees more effective
by widening the range of activities they can undertake.
This requires a shift to interfaces at which users
can easily manipulate familiar business objects that
correspond to their own perception of their business
world. Current interfaces despite the sophistication
of graphics, multiple displays etc are 'applications
oriented' and require the user to know and think 'applications'
which are not business concepts. Today's concept of
a first major delivery followed by years of maintenance
must disappear so that all work is seen as part of
a continuous, evolving, asset building, production
process in which the major part of any new application
can be met by the assembly of reusable components.
An important independent pressure is coming from the
hardware cost revolution (one megabyte of RAM now costs
less than two lines of source code). Every few years
the performance/price ratio of hardware doubles encouraging
demands for software far beyond our ability to deliver,
particularly if real computing horsepower is to be
obtained from all this equipment. Object orientation
in our view is the only technology today that has the
potential to address these issues.
It is clear that these benefits are unlikely to be achieved
without experienced assistance and investment in training.
New management problems appear. Changes in culture
and the need to reorganise are common in most organisations.
Management of software as an asset (especially at
the analysis and design level) will be a novel experience
for most enterprises. There are no methodology, CASE
or database products sufficiently mature to justify
immediate migration of any large scale IT function.
From a commercial systems viewpoint the available
products and techniques can currently be used for small
to medium applications, for front end work (new user
interfaces and integration of large existing systems
to meet the needs of specific workplaces) and for enterprise
modelling. Nevertheless, there have been several recent
examples of its use for large scale enterprise critical
applications to either gain competitive edge or because
a competitor has adopted the technology.
The way forward is to explore the technology and its
management on pilot applications, front end work and
enterprise modelling. On a broader front a proposal
for a further years work by the OIG is circulating
for approval. The work is focused on helping members
to get started, on developing method, technique and
organisation based on sharing real project experience
and on influencing suppliers to respond to our needs
Created : 30th April 1996
Updated : 11th August 1996