The Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) hosted the 24th annual SEPG North America Conference in Albuquerque on March 12-15, 2012. The SEI’s largest conference brought together approximately 500 attendees to Reach New Levels of Excellence by learning about the latest process improvement approaches and strategies and discussing the competitive advantages process improvement brings to organizations. A full menu of tutorials, panel presentations, technical sessions, and student poster presentations anchored the four-day learning and networking event.
First-time attendees began the conference with a special orientation session that brought them together with the SEPG North America 2012 technical co-chairs, members of the technical staff at the SEI, conference track chairs, and savvy returning attendees. The technical co-chairs Palma Buttles and David Zubrow led the group in a discussion about the technical program tracks, introduced the track chairs and various SEI experts, and offered guidance on how to make the most of the conference.
“Perhaps the most valuable part of the orientation session was the opportunity for new attendees to get personal, one-on-one advice on selecting technical sessions from experts in CMMI-SVC, appraisals, multi-models, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and more,” said Buttles.
Zubrow encouraged attendees not to just focus on a CMMI maturity level rating but to consider the competitive benefits of process improvement. "You need to think about what good process improvement is doing for your business. It can enhance your performance, make you more competitive, and allow you to better serve your customers."
SEPG North America 2012 opened with great enthusiasm from the presenters and attendees alike. Monday's program featured full-day and half-day tutorials on topics like the Accelerated Improvement Method (AIM), CMMI in small settings, process performance modeling, and using CMMI and Scrum together. Monday also included the SEI Partner Network Annual Meeting and Luncheon where Lisa Masciantonio, SEI Partner Network manager, recognized SEI Partners commemorating 10 and 15 years of partnership.
Paul Nielsen, SEI director and CEO, opened the first plenary session on Tuesday by expressing special thanks to all of the first-time attendees as well as several individuals who have been to all 24 SEPG North America conferences. Nielsen also noted that SEPG North America is a global conference with attendees coming from more than 20 countries from around the world. Nielsen closed his remarks by introducing keynote speaker Walker Royce, a second-generation software engineer, author, and chief software economist in the IBM Software Group.
Royce spoke about measured improvement in software by introducing the idea that software delivery is an economic discipline. He then walked attendees through six econometric patterns for measuring and steering toward improved economic outcomes. He outlined the foundational principles for software-driven innovation: integrate, collaborate, and optimize. When speaking about "optimize," Royce urged attendees to plan project milestones so integration precedes unit testing, an idea he acknowledged may seem counterintuitive.
Throughout his 45-minute talk, Royce shared many practical, applicable solutions as well as inspirational ideas. "In software, we're only bound by human imagination," Royce said. "Our decisions are often determined by value judgment."
Following Royce's presentation, Paul Mesterhazy, the acting deputy director of the National Cyber Security Division and former chief of staff for the Office of Cybersecurity & Communications, delivered prepared remarks on how software is essential to the operation of the nation’s critical infrastructure. He spoke about how vulnerabilities in software can jeopardize intellectual property, consumer trust, business operations, and services. Mesterhazy discussed federal government efforts to help improve the software engineering process and efforts to instill heightened quality control in security-related aspects of software engineering.
Wednesday’s plenary session opened with remarks from Anita Carleton, director of the SEI’s Software Engineering Process Management (SEPM) Program. Carleton acknowledged the talent and dedication of the worldwide community of practice and shared her perspective on themes for next generation of the CMMI models, including more flexibility, iterative releases, and integration with other methods and practices such as Agile and Lean.
Carleton closed her remarks by introducing Wednesday’s keynote speakers Carl Wyrwa, former director of quality at Beckman Coulter, and Khaled El Emam, senior investigator at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute.
Wyrwa delivered a presentation on medical device software development during which he imparted that software quality must be extremely high to meet the demands of providing safe and effective products involved in the critical care of patients. Wyrwa spoke poignantly about the constant focus on software quality and discussed oversight of the software development processes necessary to reduce errors that might pose regulatory problems.
Wyrwa passed along to attendees a piece of advice he received from his father. "Always do your work in a way that you would be proud to put your name to it."
El Emam also used the medical field for context in his presentation that focused on software security. Through real-world examples including an extortion plot involving personal information from patient prescriptions and the unsecure nature of the wireless link in implantable medical devices, El Emam illustrated the vital importance securing data and protecting patient privacy.
El Emam concluded his talk by emphasizing that privacy must be the default—and embedded into design and architecture of software and business processes—rather than something that needs to be explicitly required.
SEPM Director Anita Carleton revealed the destination for the 25th SEPG North America conference: Orlando, Florida. SEPG North America 2013 will occur in March and additional details will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. Visit www.sei.cmu.edu/sepg for news and updates.
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