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Bridge Building as Software Metaphor


Software developers love to contrast software development and construction projects.  When compared to construction software is in its infancy. Construction is a very well understood process with literally thousands of years of history and understanding. Developers like to say things like “building bridges is a very well understood process and can be scheduled accurately. “

Well I am here to tell you that even bridge builders suffer delays not unlike software developers.

I live in Gig Harbor, Washington and over the last couple of years have had the “privilege” of watching them build a brand spanking new $850,000,000 suspension bridge across the Tacoma narrows.  http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr16narrowsbridge/

If you have ever watched the discovery channel show that shows a bridge basically disintegrating in wind storm you have seen the Tacoma Narrows. Here’s a Wikipedia topic to look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacoma_Narrows_Bridge

Well this new bridge has not been without its delays.

The first one was that the wire they used on the bridge got left out in the rain. Imagine that rain in Seattle. Well it wasn’t the rain that screwed it up it was the paper that the wire was wrapped in that screwed it up. It caused corrosion in the wire. OOPS!

Next delay happened in November and December. We had a record set of storms in November. Record rain in Seattle… Whoopee!!!!! Also in December we had a 70-90 mile an hour wind storm.  That storm caused all kinds of problems on the bridge. Heck we were without power for over 5 days.

And the most recent delay… Shipment of the expansion joints. Expansion joints help control the give and take a bridge experiences during the year because of heat, cold, wind, rain, etc…. The first expansion joint has been sitting at the Idaho/Washington border for weeks.  The Washington DOT won’t allow the trailer they used to ship the joint into our fine state (as of this morning the 1st joint is 20 miles from the bridge)

So now we are getting very close to the final stages of the bridge project.

This project which was supposed to “ship” April 2nd will be lucky if it opens in August or September. Only 5 months late.

So be careful comparing your software project schedule to building a bridge. Bridges can be delayed too….




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