"Publication - is the Auction Of the Mind of Man" Emily Dickinson
Sunday, 20 May 2007

If you were to believe some of the more vocal advocates of the agile approach to building software, you would think that the word planning is evil. If you change the comparison to agility and discipline, then the contrast is more interesting.

 

This is exactly what Barry Boehm and Richard Turner do in their book "Balancing Agility and Discipline". They argue that the agile approach to software development, and the discipline approach to software development have much to teach each other. Any given project must achieve the right mix of agility and discipline based on the nature of the project.

 

One of the more interesting graphs in their book makes this point clear:

 

 

You have to understand:

How mission critical your project is?

How many people are on the project?

How experienced are your people?

Do the people on your project handle uncertainty well, or do they prefer order?

How dynamic can the changes to requirements be?  Do you understand the domain model well?

 

As the graph makes clear, the more experienced developers you have that can handle vagueness and ambiguity, the more likely you can use more agile methods. On the other hand, the more mission critical, the more lives at stake, and the larger the project, the more project discipline you need.

 

This is not an all or nothing choice. As the book makes clear, most of your projects will need some combination of agility and discipline. Nonetheless, no method is a silver bullet.

 

Arthur Pyster (the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the FAA) writes in his foreword that even building air traffic control systems can incorporate some agile processes.

 

I had not read their book in 2005 when I made this entry to my blog: http://www.reliablesoftware.com/DasBlog/PermaLink,guid,847f84e5-3629-400b-807b-c6f8a1345454.aspx. Reading this book reinforced my belief that one must continually evaluate the risk associated with a project, and adopt the appropriate methods that reduce that risk.

 

Sunday, 20 May 2007 20:48:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) | Comments [1] | Main#
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