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Eating the IT Elephant: Moving from Greenfield Development to Brownfield

A Practical, Start-to-Finish Approach to Managing, Evolving, and Transforming Legacy IT Systems


For every IT executive, manager, architect, program leader, project leader, and lead analyst


“Richard and Kevin introduce us to a reality that’s often neglected in our industry: the problem of evolving legacy systems, a domain they call ‘Brownfield development.’ The authors identify the root of the problem as that of complexity, and offer an approach that focuses on the fundamentals of abstraction and efficient communication to nibble at this problem of transformation bit by bit. As the old saying goes, the way you eat the elephant is one bite at a time. Richard and Kevin bring us to the table with knife and fork and other tools, and show us a way to devour this elephant in the room.”

Grady Booch, IBM Fellow, co-creator of UML


“Most organizations in the 21st century have an existing, complex systems landscape. It is time that the IT industry face up to the reality of the situation and the need for new development methods and tools that address it. This book describes a new approach to the development of future systems: a structured approach that recognizes the challenges of ‘Brownfield’ development, is based on engineering principles, and is supported by appropriate tooling.”

Chris Winter, CEng CITP FBCS FIET, IBM Fellow, Member of the IBM Academy of Technology


Most conventional approaches to IT development assume that you’re building entirely new systems. Today, “Greenfield” development is a rarity. Nearly every project exists in the context of existing, complex system landscapes--often poorly documented and poorly understood. Now, two of IBM’s most experienced senior architects offer a new approach that is fully optimized for the unique realities of “Brownfield” development.


Richard Hopkins and Kevin Jenkins explain why accumulated business and IT complexity is the root cause of large-scale project failure and show how to overcome that complexity “one bite of the elephant at a time.” You’ll learn how to manage every phase of the Brownfield project, leveraging breakthrough collaboration, communication, and visualization tools--including Web 2.0, semantic software engineering, model-driven development and architecture, and even virtual worlds.


This book will help you reengineer new flexibility and agility into your IT environment…integrate more effectively with partners…prepare for emerging business challenges… improve system reuse and value…reduce project failure rates…meet any business or IT challenge that requires the evolution or transformation of legacy systems.

About the Author

Richard Hopkins is an Executive IT Architect for IBM's services business. Over the past eleven years he has delivered a wide variety of systems, including a biometric-based national identity card system, a credit card account services system, and a customer management system for a national government. Tens of thousands of users and millions of customers use his systems every day.


In recent years he has grown frustrated with the ability of standard methods and tools to deal with the accumulated business and IT complexity he wrestles with every day. Rather than compromise with the standard "Greenfield" approaches, which ignore this complexity and pretend the world is one of "fluffy clouds," Richard opted instead for an engineering-based "Brownfield" approach that embraced the complexity. The patented and ground-breaking innovations he and his team made as a result are now being used worldwide on a variety of complex projects. These innovations are published for the first time in Eating the IT Elephant.


Richard is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (FIET). He also chaired the technical definition of the BioAPI standard from 1998-2000. BioAPI is the de-facto programming standard of the biometrics industry.


Kevin Jenkins is an Executive IT Architect for IBM's services business. Over the past seventeen years he has delivered numerous systems as diverse as air traffic control systems to e-commerce engagements. This variety of scale of systems, both in size and duration, allowed him to get a real-life view of the advantages and disadvantages of large- and small-scale developments and methods.


When he came together with Richard on an engagement to deliver a customer management system for a government agency, he had a chance to bring his experience with these different development methods to improve the success rate of this large project. In order to meet timescales, he utilized a model-driven solution to complete a large part of the delivered system, which offered a fast means to deliver the solution. This started Kevin thinking of extending this to the generation of the complete solution--and the idea of "Brownfield" was born. Over the following years he collaborated with Richard in developing the Brownfield.


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