In his article, The C2I2
Hypothesis, programmer Zed Shaw criticizes the famous C3
project at Chrysler, which is known for being the birthplace of eXtreme
Programming. He says that the project was an implementation—not an
invention. An invention, according to Zed, is something new which needs
creativity and high customer involvement, whereas an implementation is a
project which participants (including programmers) have done before.
According to Zed:
If that’s the case, why was the customer involved all the time? They had a completely working specification in an already working system. Replacing it is more a matter of reverse engineering than gathering vision, customer feedback, use cases, stories, or any of the other crap the XP team used.
Here’s the problem: when does the label "Payroll System"
become so broad that you don’t know if it’s an
invention or an implementation? Could it be possible that at a huge company
like Chrysler the payroll system was unlike any other payroll system that
had ever existed? And, within the realm of this possibility, might it also
be possible that Chrysler were redesigning the system, because through such
changes as globalization and evolving international tax and labor laws, the
system which was being replaced was no longer valid?
My point isn’t to say Zed is wrong. He makes some excellent points
and may very well be right (though, knowing some of the guys on the C3
project, I’d guess they knew the difference between invention and
My point is that it’s not always clear cut which things are
implementation and which are invention. Worse than being ambiguous,
it’s often not clear that it is ambiguous. My experience
says that most of the time, people doing the Big Rewrite will assume that
they’re doing an implementation and will staff and estimate
Most of the time, they’re wrong.