Watts Humphrey, the “Father of Software Quality,” passed away at his residence in Florida in October. His unparalleled contribution to software engineering made him one of the icons of the discipline. He dedicated a significant part of his life to addressing core software engineering issues related to schedule delays, cost overruns, performance issues and software defects. Indeed, his death is an immense loss to the software engineering community.

Across the globe, Humphrey is well known to all software engineering professionals. After all, he was the founder of the Software Process Program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute. I was introduced to some of his writings during my college days and have read chapters from some of his books. His works are referenced and quoted frequently by academia as well as the industry. In November of 2009, the SEI published a special report entitled, “The Watts New Collection: Columns by the SEI’s Watts Humphrey,” which is a must-read for all software engineers.

Humphrey was born on July 4, 1927, in Battle Creek, Mich. While in first grade, he found it very difficult to read lessons and eventually failed that year. Later, his family moved to New England, where Humphrey did well in his studies. He had dyslexia, a learning disability that impairs the ability to read. With hard work and dedication, Humphrey graduated valedictorian of his high school class.

wattsSubsequently, he joined the United States Navy, where he earned top scores in Morse code lessons. He later earned a degree in physics from the University of Chicago and completed a master’s degree in physics from Illinois Institute of Technology. He also received an MBA from the University of Chicago. During his graduate studies at IIT, he had the privilege to have Enrico Fermi as his professor of nuclear physics.

Humphrey spent 27 years at IBM, where he worked with thousands of software engineers spread across several laboratories in seven countries. At IBM, he gained valuable experience with stalwarts such as Fred Brooks and Bob Evans, who won the National Medal of Technology for their contribution to introducing IBM 360.

From IBM, Humphrey joined the SEI to establish the Software Process Program, which culminated in the Software Capability Maturity Model. Humphrey also introduced the Software Process Assessment and Software Capability Evaluation methods. All of this work became the foundation of the Capability Maturity Model Integration, which has been adopted by organizations across the globe.

Humphrey’s passion for his work in software engineering motivated him to join the SEI, which later named him its first SEI Fellow. This is an honor given to accomplished professionals with outstanding commitment.

Humphrey realized the significance of software engineering teams and their challenges in delivering high-quality software on schedule. He developed the Team Software Process, an approach that provides professionals with the skills they need to create and track plans and delivery high-quality software on schedule.

About Raja Bavani