What is the development theory that Steve Jobs used to develop the Apple II computer? Do you think that when Thomas Edison invented and mass-produced the light bulb, and many other inventions, he was thinking about what project development model to apply? What model was on the mind of Henry Ford when he revolutionized the automotive industry (besides the model T)?
If you have great visionary leaders who have a good understanding of the market, and talented people who master the state-of-the-art technology, with a bit of luck, you can develop a best-in-class product, and disrupt the market, without the need for any management/development theory. Following your success, people (not as smart as your people) will try to extract lessons from your good practices, theorize them, and sell them to other companies as remedies to their problems. Good practices will always help to improve the outcome, but will never fix the problem of narrow-minded leadership and unmotivated people.
This sets the ground for the sequel.
The development of a product/software comprises the following key activities:
Projects go over-budget and over-schedule; small ones, like renovating your kitchen, and huge ones, like constructing the Sydney Opera House. One main reason is our overconfident optimistic approach to planning. Behavioral psychologists call this the “Planning Fallacy“.
This post defines the concept of planning fallacy, gives examples of its consequences on some global projects, and provides some tips to mitigate it.
The Planning Fallacy
The planning fallacy is when we underestimate the time and resources needed to complete a project. We are often optimistic about our performance and the outcome of the project, so we take our desires for real plans.
The planning fallacy is a cognitive bias that fools our decision-making ability into considering the best-case scenario. It has a somewhat positive side, which is risk-taking. This cognitive bias allows us to take both small risks, such as opening a small business, and huge risks such as starting a war.
Catastrophic Project Plans
The following chart presents some major projects around the globe that went catastrophically over-budget. Notice the trend; the bigger the project, the higher the overbudget.
The digital technology industry has been moving at a very fast pace over the last decades. Companies that are unable to adapt have been left behind (Nokia, Kodak, etc.). Agility is a key skill for a company to remain competitive.
Since the Agile Manifesto for software development declared in 2001, several software companies have been moving towards this mindset. Some companies went further and adopted the Agile way of development in industries other than software industry.
If your time to you is worth saving Then you better start swimming, or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changing.
Is it possible for any company to apply Agile? How about big companies, with complex organizations, top-down policies, rigid processes, over-specialized teams, and other bureaucratic burdens? And above all, what is Agile, and what is not Agile? First, let’s review the life-cycle of a product.
A product life-cycle can be broadly divided into 4 phases as shown in the figure below:
Software development is a tough process. It starts off by identifying and understanding what the user/client needs, and ends by deploying a solution that may, or may not, satisfy the user. During this journey, a group of Homo sapiens work together, organize teams, conceive plans, define tasks, rules and tools. They spend time and effort specifying, designing, programming, testing, documenting, bug fixing, etc. and hoping that they will deliver on time.
Some of those sapiens groups outperform their peers, and manage to provide high quality solutions on time. Other groups fail to deliver any solution, and waste their effort, time and resources in vain. Successful software developers (at least some of them) decided to help the others with their skills, by teaching them how they are doing Software development. This is why, on February 11th – 13th, 2001, at The Lodge at Snowbird ski resort in the Wasatch mountains of Utah, USA, seventeen Homo sapiens met to talk, ski, relax, and try to find common ground—and of course, to eat. What emerged was the Agile Software Development Manifesto.
Agile is a Software development mindset that embraces change. It is neither a process nor a model, but rather a set of values and principles. It is a flexible approach for Software development, that helps organizations to adapt fast to the market change.
Processes and documentation are important, but not the main concern in Agile mindset.
There exist a wide variety of software development models, that have evolved to address the evolving challenges facing the software industry. In this post, the following models are reviewed:
Unified Process Model
We present a summary of their pros and cos, and the cases for which each model is best suited for. Note that the same models apply to other product (or system) development, therefore, we will use software and product interchangeably in this post. It is worth noting also that, in practice, most organizations combine two or more models in their development process.
First, let’s take a look at the software development phases.
Software Development Phases
The Waterfall Model
The conventional way to conduct software development projects consists broadly of the following steps:
Requirements: they are gathered from the customer/user at the beginning of the project. Requirements are system-level and independent of the technical solution.
Architecture & Design: architecture deals with the high level design, and the definition of the interfaces and interactions between subsystems. Then detailed design deals with components, functions, subsystems, etc.
Implementation: the design is now a coded software that is ready to be tested.
Testing: it includes verification and validation (V&V) of the product. First, the verification means to check that what we designed is working as expected (unit testing for instance). Then the validation is to check that what we designed and implemented actually fulfills the requirements (system testing).
Release: the software is released and is ready for deployment. Sometimes, deployment and maintenance are considered to be part of the software development phases.