Book Review: It’s All Upside Down


IAUDI had the opportunity last year to do something I had never done before – review and critique a book as it was in development. The book is called, “It’s All Upside Down” written by Paul McMahon, a true pioneer in the software engineering world. Given his impressive track record of authoring some of the key texts in modern software development practices – including Integrating CMMI and Agile Development, published under the Software Engineering Institute’s banner – I was truly humbled to be asked to serve as a reviewer. When I later read the final product and realized among the rest of the handful of reviewers were such industry icons as Ivar Jacobson and Scott Ambler (along with several of my friends from the process improvement community) I really felt honored.

While I am the first to admit that I didn’t have as much to offer in terms of the kinds of low-level process and methodology expertise from both industry and academia as my distinguished co-reviewers, I brought an appreciation for how to tell a story, and what I liked about the book right away was the writing style. Paul presents his points anecdotally through highlighted scenarios culled from his extensive collection of real-world project management and software development coaching engagements. It is easy, to me, to see reflections of my own experiences in his examples, and each one ends with practical lessons learned and advice.

In addition, Paul uses this book to leverage the Essence Framework as context for the best practices flowing out of his experience. To be honest, I had no idea what Essence was when I began reviewing the book. I quickly learned that the Essence Framework is the Unified Process – developed primarily by Jacobson, Booch, and Rumbaugh, achieving prominence in the 1990s – all grown up and living happily in the age of agile software development. Paul’s book offers a great way to ease into a practical understanding of Essence at a perfect time as it begins to take root across an industry anxious to find the right way to put lightweight but effective structure around modern project methodologies.

Want to know more?  Have a look at Paul’s blog where he covers his new book in several posts, including some YouTube videos highlighting its most salient points. And of course, hit up Amazon to “Look Inside” and buy a copy for yourself. Then, as I suggest in my comments in the introduction, grab a coffee and prepare to spend some time learning from a great coach.


About Michael Callihan

Mr. Callihan has more than two decades of experience in software engineering and business consulting. His expertise is in application architecture and helping customers develop best practices in enterprise software development. Mr. Callihan has worked with large government organizations including more than 10 years with the US Army, and many large corporations – HP, Time Warner, and various health care systems. His experience includes object-oriented analysis, design and programming, team mentorship, technical training, and project management. Mr. Callihan is a Project Management Institute (PMI) certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a certified Lean Six Sigma Sensei (LSSS). He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in Information and Decision Systems and Industrial Management.

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