Last week I spent 3 very enjoyable days at the 23rd INCOSE International Symposium in Philadelphia. As representatives of IBM Rational we are often asked what we do--how we help out customers, and we produce a lot of collateral to explain our "value proposition". I'd like to write here a personal, as opposed to corporate, expression of "what we do".
At IBM Rational, we magnify, amplify, and enable--we don't so much build products ourselves (with the exception of our software tools)--that is, planes, trains, automobiles, and the like. We help you do things better, faster, less expensively, and we help you lower the risk of building innovative products. But without telling you how, this is just "motherhood and apple pie"--everyone claims to do this. So it is my responsibility to tell you how I think we do this.
I am heavily influenced in this by discussions I had with our Vice President of Rational Systems, Bret Greenstein, and by a panel I attended on the The Convergence of Engineering Disciplines in Modern Product Development. One of the panelists was Professor Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli from University of California Berkeley. As you will see, his thoughts on abstractions and constraining process also influenced me a lot.
First of all, we try to discover powerful abstractions to help conquer complexity. I will write in a separate post about one of these, joint realization, because it is one that I am most familiar with. Professor Sangiovanni-Vincentelli talked a fair amount about mathematical abstractions--clearly the abstractions we use in mathematics are very powerful. Modeling is very important here. We create powerful models which encapsulate the innovative hard thinking of thought leaders and package it in a way that others ("mere mortals") can leverage/benefit from the innovation of the thought leaders--Wizardry at your Fingertips (webcast). To continue the mythological allusions I have been using in previous posts, we provide Perseus with the idea and the mirror with which he can slay Medusa,
or Theseus with the magic thread to navigate back through the labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur of complexity.
Second, we help you constrain and optimize processes--strategically limiting choices to minimize errors, analysis paralysis, and undirected churn. We encapsulate best practices, and automate wherever sensible and possible. This promotes more effective learning and internalization, and promotes reuse of process. Used judiciously, this significantly reduces errors. We elevate capacity by automating whatever can be automated.
Third, we provide power tools to help make this happen. Powerful thinking tools, process tools, data management tools, and modeling tools, among other things. For example, check out the Rational Engineering Lifecycle Manager. Powerful tools are magnifiers and amplifiers--we make the software equivalent of levers and pulleys, chainsaws and steamshovels. We strive to find and provide a calculus for building better products, a process model to accelerate production, and a toolset to help it all work.