I managed to escape from the Software Engineering method prison!

Pekka Abrahamsson

Professor of Information Systems and Software Engineering at University of Jyväskylä, Finland

I am a software developer by training. I have felt the pain of teaching software engineering in university courses since 1999. Even if I had my PhD in software process improvement, it is incredibly difficult to focus on the essential matters in software engineering since no one had agreed what those essential matters are. I have researched and published about agile software development since the early days. Even if everyone today is developing software using agile methods we still lack the concrete understanding what it exactly means. We find ourselves in a place that is best described as a method prison [1] where fads like Scrum and Kanban dominate our choice of actions. In reality every method needs tailoring to be fit for use. Many years ago Ivar Jacobson persuaded me to join the SEMAT initiative. I, too, wanted to escape the method prison, so I joined.

At NTNU in Norway I had the privilege to teach software engineering to a class with close to 500 CS undergraduate students. I essentialized the teaching, threw the old textbooks out of the window and followed the Essence thinking throughout the course. We had more than 100 student projects delivering successfully a tangible software project and a product. The task was to develop a software robot that revolutionizes university teaching. While these students did not have software engineering experience from before, Essence helped them to see the big picture and placed them in control of their own way of working. I have shared my experiences in a scientific paper [2] published at Profes 2018 conference. Please read it and share it. For those who want to know more about the actual essentialized student projects, check out our book at [3].

In summary, we have finally a way to move beyond Scrum and Kanban. No more method wars on our campus! Essence is the future in Software Engineering method education and practice.


[1] Jacobson, I., & Stimson, R. (2019), Tear down the method prisons! Set free the practices! ACM Communications, an ACM Queue Publication, https://www.ivarjacobson.com/publications/white-papers-articles/tear-down-method-prisons-set-free-practices

[2] Kemell, K.K., Nguyen-Duc, A., Wang, X., Risku, J. and Abrahamsson, P., 2018. The Essence Theory of Software Engineering–Large-Scale Classroom Experiences from 450+ Software Engineering BSc Students. In International Conference on Product-Focused Software Process Improvement (pp. 123-138). Springer, Cham.

[3] Nguyen-Duc, A., & Abrahamsson, P. 2017. 100 Open Sourced Software Robots for Tomorrow's Education: Revolutionizing the University Learning Experience with Bot Technologies. DOI:https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5597983.v1

---> Link to the report here.