The nature of careers is often that, as you get older, you spend more time managing, negotiating and facilitating rather than actually doing software engineering. I’m no exception to this and I haven’t had operational involvement in a significant systems project for quite some time. However, I’ve now had the opportunity of getting involved again in some real systems requirements engineering.
I’ve been asked to lead a group looking at the architectural requirements for a replacement system for Glow – a system that’s supposed to support collaborative learning and resource sharing in all Scottish schools. The Glow system does not have a great reputation amongst teachers and we hope that the replacement system will be more acceptable and better suited to what they need.
I’m at the stage at the beginning of the project where I’m overwhelmed by the complexity of the problem and it’ll take a bit of time to work through this and get started. As always, the real problems with this system are not technical but are political – senior politicians will have egg on their face if this goes wrong and the governance of the system is split between a number of different bodies. There’s a very wide variety of stakeholders and many, maybe most users, frankly, couldn’t care less if the system is replaced or not.
Luckily, this has come up at a time when I’ve just finished a major job and hadn’t yet started anything else so I will be able to give it some time. We have a group of motivated and enthusiastic teachers involved and at least one very articulate student user. This is a major challenge but I’m very excited by the prospect of getting back to the sharp end and doing some practical engineering.
So, when it comes to the next edition of Software Engineering, expect a new case study on IT systems for education.