I’ve read a lot of books, and I usually look in the bibliography to see if there is anything there that looks interesting. Usually when it comes to bibliographic references, they are of the works of Barry Boehm and Capers Jones. I don’t remember seeing any references to Randall Jensen, which I thought was perhaps a bad sign. Well, this initial slight prejudice turned out to be unfounded.
It seems that to be an authority in software productivity you either need to have developed a model or have some sort of methodology. In the case of Boehm, it is the Cocomo model, in the case of Jones it is the function points methodology. In Randall’s case, it’s two models, Sage and Seer, which seem reasonably similar to Cocomo. Whilst the bulk of the book does go into the application of these models, there is also plenty of discussion of the rationale behind the factors that are employed. For me the high-points of the book are in the earlier chapters where Jensen covers the fundamental problems in software development, some of the history of techniques and that have succeeded and failed. The section on measurement dysfunction definitely struck a chord with me.
On the negative side, there were a few oddities. Jensen clearly has a bit of a bee in his bonnet about the Western education system that favours individual competitiveness rather then teaching group work which would be more suited to most people’s working lives. He also says a fair bit about the working environment, eschewing cubicles and proselytising open-space. I’ve always considered DeMarco and Lister’s Peopleware to be the reference on this matter, and they advocate private offices.