The misunderstanding of Dr. Royce

It’s the year 1970. Dr. Winston W. Royce, director at Lockheed Software Technology Centre decides to write a paper. The paper, Managing the development of large software systems, will become famous. This paper is the origin, the source, the root, of the waterfall model, although he never used the term. Someone in the American Department of Defence reads the paper, and voila a new standard is born; the DoD STD 2167. Adoption in the development world can be compared with a snow avalanche.

Back to the paper. Have you ever read it, or (even) want to read it? Chances are it’s a boring endless explanation of the greatness of the waterfall. WRONG!

It’s a very readable 11 pages thin paper with 10 figures. Royce starts with the basic blocks of the model; analysis followed by coding. Then he mentions;

A more grandiose approach to software development is illustrated in figure 2. The analysis and coding steps are still in the picture, but are preceded by two levels of requirements analysis, are separated by a program design step, and are followed by a testing step.”

So far so good, this is the waterfall method. But then surprise, the first sentence of page 2 (!), we read;

I believe in this concept, but the implementation described above is risky and invites failure.” Backed up with arguments, he continues with;

In effect the development process has returned to the origin and one can expect up to 100-percent overrun in schedule and/or cost.

What? Pardon? He’s not promoting the waterfall? …….Total silence…….please, open the hyperlink, read his paper.


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