tainly as we move into the era of the
Internet of Things and cyber-physical
systems the importance of organizing multidisciplinary teams and systems engineering become obvious.
To meet this need, Ivar Jacobson and
I have co-edited the book Software Engineering in the Systems Context where
many well-known software and systems experts have provided their input. 3 Further, a call is made to extend
the ideas from Essence to the systems
We are very deep in the Black Hole of
Complexity and two important root
causes to this situation have been
identified. First, due to the mismatch
between hardware and software that
has resulted in complexities with the
widescale usage of lower-level languages and middleware. Secondly,
given the scope and complexity of
today’s software systems, we need to
improve our approach to developing,
deploying, and sustaining software
systems that have become the most
important and vulnerable elements
of modern-day systems. Here, Essence
provides an important step forward.
Progress must be made in these two
important aspects if the world is to
avoid sinking further into the Black
Hole of Complexity.
1. Barton, R. Functional design of computers. Commun.
ACM 4, 9 (Sept. 1961).
2. Brooks, F. The Mythical Man-Month. Addison-Wesley, 1974.
3. Jacobson, I. and Lawson, H., Eds. Software
Engineering in the Systems Context, Volume 7. Systems
Series, College Publications, Kings College, U.K., 2015.
4. Jacobson, I. et al. The Essence of Software
Engineering: Applying the SEMAT Kernel. Addison-Wesley, 2013.
5. Lawson, H. Rebirth of the computer industry.
Commun. ACM 45, 6 (June 2002).
6. Lawson, H. and Magnhagen, B. Advantages of structured
hardware. In Proceedings of the 2nd Annual International
Symposium on Computer Architecture, 1975.
7. Lawson, H. and Smith B. Functional characteristics
of a multi-lingual processor. IEEE Transactions on
Computers C- 20, 7 (July 1971).
8. Myers, G. SWARD—A software-oriented architecture.
In Proceedings of the International Workshop on
High-Level Language Computer Architecture, 1980.
9. OMG. Essence—Kernel and Language for Soft ware
Engineering Methods. Object Management Group, 2015.
10. Wilner, W. Design of the Burroughs B1700. In
Proceedings of the Fall Joint Computer Conference, 1972.
Harold “Bud” Lawson ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an ACM,
IEEE, and INCOSE Fellow, IEEE Charles Babbage
Computer Pioneer, and INCOSE Systems Engineering
Copyright held by author.
mous volumes of compiled code and
middleware leading to bugs, viruses,
hacker attacks, and so forth, to a large
extent due to the enormous complexity. Given the current problems of cyber security, it is high time to seriously
address the semantic gap and develop
language-directed architectures that
make software more understandable,
maintainable, and protectable while
also significantly reducing the amount
of generated code.
Deployment, and Sustainment
I have termed the unnecessary complexity that has evolved Busyware.
Certainly it keeps vast numbers of
consultants and teams of software engineers and programmers occupied.
They should be focusing on producing good-quality software products
(Valueware and Stableware), but find
themselves often side-tracked into
handling implementation complexities. While a resolution of the hardware-software mismatch would be a
step in a positive direction, the scope
and complexity of today’s large software endeavors demand that the process of developing, deploying, and sustaining software must be improved.
For example, today’s operating systems and many advanced applications
in the range of 50 to 100 million lines
of code produced by a large group of
software engineers and programmers
have introduced significant problems
of stability and maintainability.
The software engineering profession was established to improve capabilities in developing, deploying,
and sustaining software. While
early efforts focused on improvements in program structure, later
developments have focused on the
way of working. Many “gurus” have
provided their own twist on best
practices and methods that are often followed in a religious manner.
As a result, a plethora of approaches have evolved. While this situation has made a lot of people rich,
it certainly has contributed to additional complexities in selecting and
applying appropriate practices and
methods—moving us even deeper
into the Black Hole of Complexity.
In an effort to improve upon this
alarming situation an international
effort initiated by Richard Soley, Ber-
trand Meyer, and Ivar Jacobson result-
ed in the SEMAT (Software Engineer-
ing Method and Theory) organization.
They observed that software engineer-
ing suffers from:
˲ The prevalence of fads more typi-
cal of a fashion industry than of an en-
˲ The lack of a sound, widely accept-
ed theoretical basis;
˲ The huge number of methods and
method variants, with differences little
understood and artificially magnified;
˲ The lack of credible experimental
evaluation and validation; and
˲ The split between industry prac-
tice and academic research.
As a concrete step a team of interna-
tional experts developed the Essence
Kernel4 that has become an OMG stan-
dard. 9 Essence provides:
˲ A thinking framework for teams to
reason about the progress they are mak-
ing and the health of their endeavors.
˲ A framework for teams to assem-
ble and continuously improve their
way of working.
˲ The common ground for improved
communication, standardized measure-
ment, and the sharing of best practices.
˲A foundation for accessible, in-
teroperable method and practice defi-
˲ And most importantly, a way to
help teams understand where they are,
and what they should do next.
While developed for software engi-
neering, when examining Essence it
is obvious there are many ideas that
can be applied on a wider scale. Cer-
The scope and
complexity of today’s
that the process
must be improved.