Thought Leadership

Is all Software Rubbish?

By Robin Bornoff

How can software ever be classed as being any good if vendors keep issuing new versions of it? Was V1.0 really so bad as to warrant developing V2, 3, 4 etc…. I suppose there are many reasons for incremental software development, some sound, others less so. We’re in the process of developing the next major release of FloTHERM and FloVENT. It’s going well, the sun’s shining, the birds are singing, everyone hug. However I can’t  get rid of the naggling thought as to why it takes so many releases in the striving to develop the perfect software tool.

Maybe first point to make is that the world changes, software tools need to change, adapt and track the world’s needs thus they will always change, it’s natural. A fair point, especially in the electronics cooling industry. As new cooling methods emerge and are adopted into standard design practice, FloTHERM will have to provide a simulation analogue. True to a lesser extent for FloVENT, take displacement ventilation, a relatively new room cooling method coming in at about 30 years old.

There’s always a balance between feature quality, quantity and resulting user value. If you rush V1, get the quality/quantity balance wrong, you’ll be running to catch up with yourself for many releases from that point on.

Take a feature driven software development approach, exercise with gay abandon for say 10 releases then et voilà, you risk having some fat feature bloated software thing that would benefit from a featuronic enema or two.

Similarly if you focus on functional change at the expense of non-functional (the -ilities, userbility, stability, maintainability etc.) you’ll have built a castle on sand.

Not that I’m biased but I think for FloTHERM and FloVENT we steered clear of these main pit falls. Both tools are being developed on their second generation platform, both having matured for over 20 years now.  Work is proceeding on V9 development. As a product manager it’s a very exciting time, seeing new features that have at last bubbled to the top of the ‘to do’ list be implemented, getting the first build to start acceptance testing, iterating with software engineering, refining, polishing.

We’ve used the Mentor Graphics IDEAS for Mechanical site to help both capture and prioritise software enhancement suggestions directly from users (requires SupportNet login).  I’ve posted a blog on that site describing a few of the things we are hoping to include in V9 (with the usual caveats and disclaimers). Not a complete list by any means, more a flavour of what’s to come.

O, and we are of course planning to implement what has been voted the most common requested feature by far….

4th September 2009, Ross-on-Wye

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at