THE NEVER ENDING COMPLEXITY Software engineering and IT quality professionals gather in Sofia (Bulgaria) to discuss what’s next…

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SPI MEETS IN SOFIA 2010” (18-20 October 2010)

What is in common between the Chile minors rescue mission, the climate change, the BP oil rig explosion in Louisiana, the Mars Rover and the daily use of the mobile phone? You may think there is nothing, but you are wrong. Behind each of these is “hidden” a complex software system. This is how Dr. Paul Nielsen, CEO and Director of Software Engineering Institute – SEI (Carnegie Mellon University) and member of the US National Academy of Engineering explained how we all today are connected with software. In his keynote speech “Taming Complexity” at the opening of the joint Software Process Improvement conference in Sofia on 18th of October he said: “Without Technology we couldn’t watch together the rescue mission in Chile. Without the connection of more and more systems we could have heard about it 3 months later.” 

Nevertheless we realize it or not, we are in touch with software every day – mobile phones, cars, planes. The complexity is everywhere – affects our economy, security, environment, health. It brings rewards, but also perils. When the systems work we even don’t notice them. But when they don’t – we start to wonder how we missed this detail. Like the BP oil explosion – is it only BP’s fault? “It’s the complexity”, pointed out Dr. Nielsen, and it’s of vital importance to understand the risks, the safe management and the potential to deliver a better life for all of us.” 

The understanding that we cannot stop the complexity, but only work to recognize and manage the risks, motivated the European Software Institute – ESI Center Bulgaria ( to host a unique joint edition of two international conferences: 4th  Central and Eastern Europe Annual Conference on Software Process Improvement (CEE-SPI,, organized with Kugler Maag CIE (Germany) and European and Mediterranean Software Process Improvement (EuroMed SPI, ), initiated by the European Software Institute – ESI (Spain).

The key element to “tame the complexity” is the Software Process Improvement (SPI) – the driver initiative for reliable IT services and software systems, for higher competitiveness of software companies and IT intensive business. More than 130 professionals from over 20 countries and 4 continents gathered for two days in Sofia (18 – 20 October) to share experience and to discuss the current and the next challenges the software development and IT services are to face. 

In his keynote speech Dr. Nielsen also noticed the importance of the systematic development in the region of Eastern Europe and Mediterranean in direction of software and IT quality, targeting the industry de-facto standards CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration). The selected presentations for the conference addressed the implementation of quality models (Agile and CMMI/Capability Maturity Model Integration, IT Mark, Six Sigma), enhancement of Return on Investment and competitiveness, best practices in management of IT projects, teams and organizations, management of R&D and innovation activities, global standards in IT education and professional qualification. 

During the two intensive days current trends in the “never ending complexity” of software platforms and IT systems development were addressed by the leaders in the field. The Director of the Eclipse Foundation – Ralph Mueller presented the incentives by Open Source technology use – prospective of the Eclipse credo and provoked hot discussions on equal opportunities for software vendors and producers, advantages and disadvantages of software democracy. Two tutorials gave practical insight on how to organize better the teams and processes. Gian Wemyss,  from SEI and Conference Program Committee, presented practical aspects of IT teams management in “Managing a Technical Workforce”, based on People CMM. Enrique Morey, CMMI senior appraiser in ESI, demonstrated by real cases how to fit the most appropriate model to the needs and business goals of a company, and how to turn the multi-model nightmare to a favorable working environment.

Dr. Paul Clements from SEI, Carnegie Mellon University, the guru on software architectures and co-author of several practitioner books, also challenged the imagination of the audience looking for what’s in common between the mobile phones, the satellite ground systems and the fish farm management? The answer – the Software Product Lines that increase the quality 10 times, decrease the costs with 60%, the labor needs with 87% and the time to markets with 98%, despite you make burgers or space-ships. Dr. Clemens shared his experience also with Bulgarian students and professors at Sofia University – the oldest university in Bulgaria. In the “bonus” to conference open lecture he explained that Nokia, after implementing SPL, was able to release 30 new products per year instead of 5 -10. 

It is not by coincidence George Sharkov Director of ESI Center Bulgaria, and Regional Manager of ESI, chose to announce for the first time during the conference the “SEMP: Software Engineering Management Program” – an ambitious 2 year program-challenge to the ICT academic education in Bulgaria. The project of ESI Center Bulgaria and SEI/Carnegie Mellon University is in partnership with six leading Bulgarian universities, and is funded by USAID and “America for Bulgaria” Foundation.

How to cope with the crisis is a question not to be missed nowadays – the panel discussions addressed the hot topics of the industry competitiveness – which donor and support programs could help. Around the table for the first time met IT business people from Moldova, Chile, Poland, and also the SEI-Europe head Jay Douglass who spoke about return on investment for SPI. All the participants concluded that despite the global crisis, the companies and organizations with vision to the future should (and indeed the smart ones do) continue their systematic work on internal process improvement, which gives them already advantage by cost-efficiency, short time-to-market and  high quality products and services. At the second panel, the tangible results and trends for support by donor programs (like USAID, EBRD/BAS, GTZ) were illustrated with examples from the region and the globe (like Kenya). EU directions in R&D and IT business support, and ICT skills and competences frameworks were discussed too. 

The conference was addressed also by H.E. USA Ambassador in Bulgaria James Warlick who welcomed the participants with “dobre doshli” (“welcome”, in Bulgarian). He linked his early experience in programming with the tremendous current progress, which raised many challenges, but also created a lot of opportunities to Bulgaria and the countries from the region, with strong traditions and unrevealed potential yet. Bulgarian Government representatives declared the support to this highly competitive sector, important for the key e-governance and e-administration reform. The regional manager of RCI, Filip Stoyanovich, underlined the importance of regional cooperation for a strong and visible common brand. On behalf of the two co-organizers Sergio Bandinelli (ESI) and Christophe Debou (Kugler Maag) reviewed the continuous improvement of the level and scope of the program, and the role of the joint conference for international cooperation and “coopetition”.

The SEI ( presence in Sofia was headed by Dr. Paul Nielsen (CEO and Director), and Lisa Masciantonio (Partner Relationship Manager) and majority of the conference participants expressed their fulfillment of the level of presentations and audience – a proof for high maturity of the regional companies and organizations, and of the joint event as an excellent opportunity to learn, share experience and build professional relations and friendships. The sponsors helped for relaxed and fruitful atmosphere – Nemetscheck Bulgaria and VMware Bulgaria (as golden sponsors); Parasoft, Microsoft (Bulgaria) and Business Park Sofia (as silver). General sponsor and host of the event was ESI Center Bulgaria. USAID (US Agency for International Development) supported the participants from the region through the Regional Competitiveness Initiative – RCI project, and organized a complementary B2B workshop on building a sustainable regional ICT training and certification network, and regional capacity.

On behalf of the organizers, Dr. George Sharkov (Director of ESI Center Bulgaria, and Regional Manager of ESI) said: “It was heavy, but rewarding effort. And everybody contributed. People keep on calling us with gratitude – apparently it was more than a mere professional gathering. We all came out as friends, as a team – the team which builds our digital future today.” 

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