Adobe pay homage to failed development methodologies with WorkflowLab

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

waterfall methodThis week’s Adobe MAX event has seen a sizeable number of interesting and potentially exciting announcements and releases. One rotten apple stood out amongst these releases though.

As anyone who has been involved in software development over the last couple of decades will know, everyone once used to slavishly follow the waterfall method of software development. Projects were consistently late, over-budget and of poor quality. An endless succession of solutions to solving these problems were suggested, with little success. Then one day, the penny dropped and it was realised that the the waterfall method itself was to blame. It is a crap way of developing software; this is well recognised today. Instead of the design, implement, test, ship step approach to development, agile methods, such as Scrum, are growing in popularity. The reason is simple: agile methods are far more likely to deliver projects on time, in budget with a high quality value.

Given this, I was excited to see a work flow tool appear on Adobe Labs, called WorkflowLab and eagerly installed it to see what the tool would offer. To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement. I was actually shocked by what I found.

The first – and relatively minor – problem was the poor user experience it offered me as a Windows 7 user. Rather than use the Windows chrome, the developers have opted to implement their own chrome. As a consequence, it lacks the nice drop shadow that “proper” windows applications have. It doesn’t support the new Windows 7 window resizing controls (ie dragging on the titlebar when maximised didn’t cause it to resume its non-maximised size). And it basically plain looks crap as it sits amid a sea of aero glass-decorated programs. My guess is that the developers use Macs and did no Windows 7 UX tests. As the latter has been freely available via the beta programme for months now, the developers have no excuse for this.

The second – and way more important –  problem can be observed in the screen shot below (click on it to see the full size image). What you see is a supposed “best practice” work flow for “InDesign to Kindle Store”.

WorkflowLab screenshot
WorkflowLab screenshot

The developers seem to seriously believe that completing the layout before previewing the result is “best practice”! And lest you think that this is a one-off, even the “Workflow Behind WorkflowLab” work flow show the classic design, develop, test, release waterfall approach and sells this too as “best practice”.

In case you haven’t worked it out by now, I strongly feel this is a rubbish application, full of bad work flow advice. By itself, this wouldn’t be too bad, but this is an Adobe-endorsed product that is supposed to sell the use of Flash Catalyst in the development work flow.  Catalyst has come in for criticism from some developers as the beta releases of the product only support one-way design -> develop work flows. I had assumed this due to it being a beta and that the final release would support circular, iterative, development. WorkflowLab opens up a worrying possibility though: that Catalyst will only ever support this one way flow, and Adobe are trying to con the world into thinking this is OK by presenting a failed work flow method as “best practice”.

3 thoughts on “Adobe pay homage to failed development methodologies with WorkflowLab

  1. bloody hell I didn’t realise the dinosaurs that believed in the waterfall model were still alive, or maybe the last remaining idiots have gravitated to this one project which looks likely to die a rapid death thus improving IT management via the same path suggested by Darwin.

    seriously though plenty of managers are there because they have been promoted to the position in which they can do the least harm (dilbert principle I think) so they won’t realise that this “best practice” is actually the “road to disaster” and may force otherwise capable people down this dead end path.

    So Adobe has proved to not only be stupid and stuck in the past but that if they are going down they want to take a few people with them.

  2. I just don’t get this product. A lot of folk in Adobe seem keen on agile methods, so why this idea was ever conceived is a mystery.

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