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Getting Started with Modeling Maturity Levels

As software becomes more and more complex, the need for modeling increases exponentially. Learn about the six different levels of modeling maturity and why they're so important for you to begin implementing now—before it's too late.

odeling, and especially UML, is becoming more and more important in software development. After you've participated in a number of software projects, you will realize that developers use models in different ways for different purposes.

In our book on Model Driven Architecture (Addison-Wesley) we defined six (0 through 5) Modeling Maturity Levels (MMLs) to characterize the role of modeling in a software project. In the following, we give you a quick overview of the different MMLs, followed by examples of models at each level. The awareness of the different MMLs enables you to make an assessment of your own modeling practice, and may trigger you to try to reach for a higher level.

MML 0: No Specification
At the lowest level, level 0, the specification of software is not written down. It is kept in the minds of the developers. This level is often used in non-professional environments by people who have just started programming. This level is also used by professional developers who write software for themselves, "Why write a specification, I know what I want!" In this type of development the specification is bound to change continuously. Whenever the developer has a new idea, it will be incorporated in the software.

The downside is that without a specification, software of a substantial size rapidly becomes hard to maintain. When it's necessary to introduce new developers into the project, they need to reverse engineer the code in order to figure out how it works and what it does. Even when the original developer is still around, he or she often needs to go through the same process. After a certain amount of time, nobody can remember exactly why or how a certain detail is as it is.

The Mailer Example
When our oldest son was 11 years old, he became interested in programming and we bought him SuperLogo for Windows. This is a programming environment based on Logo, especially developed for children. After studying SuperLogo for several weeks he had programmed all the exercises in the book and needed a new challenge. He said, "I am going to build you a mail program."

At that moment clearly the only thing he had was a specification at MML 0. He knew that he wanted to build a system that would allow all members of the family to send simple notes to each other, such as, "I am going shopping. See you in a hour." Note that this was never written down, he only told us verbally, and proceeded to implement the program. It took him a couple of weeks, but in the end he managed to get a very simple, file-based, non-distributed mail system working.

Although our son only had an MML 0 level specification, we will use the program he conceived as example for the other MMLs as well. We will show you the specifications that could have been made for this system on each level. Because the system is so simple, we will be able to present the specifications in more detail.

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