Want to continually change a project's scope?

By Thom Holmes, ITworld.com |  Career

In the previous two installments of this series, we introduced the rapid-development
practice known as Extreme Programming (XP). XP is a development methodology based on
several somewhat arbitrary, and limiting, controls:

  • Programming tasks are broken down into manageable chunks that can be
    completed in three weeks.

  • A close review of those tasks prior to each triweekly programming iteration
    defines the functionality that can be achieved. Additional functions considered to be
    of secondary importance are postponed until the end of the programming cycle or are
    indefinitely postponed.
  • Programmers work in pairs. One writes the code, the other tests the code. This
    ensures that the result of each iteration is solid and ready for functional testing.
    Individual software modules are also integrated at the end of each coding
    iteration.
  • An iteration of the software is released for functional testing at the
    conclusion of each three-week development cycle.
  • A group of developers from Tektronics that included Ward Cunningham and Kent Beck
    founded XP. The group found that by continually examining the scope of a project, as
    well as varying it to restrict coding to arbitrary three-week sessions, they could
    cause the project's quality, duration, and cost to take care of itself. In other words,
    they reversed the traditional model of software development, in which scope is defined
    as a constant while the variables of quality, time, and cost change in order to conform
    to the scope.

    Realizing that the traditional approach often led to missed deadlines, extravagant
    spending, and various delays, the group experimented with making scope a variable that
    could be modified to meet a fixed project length and cost. XP is designed to permit
    continual re-evaluation of project scope. The resulting Website may not include all of
    the features that were originally desired, but the completed features will work
    reliably.

    Managing expectations

    Allowing project scope to vary raises several important issues, including the problem
    of pricing the services of a third-party developer if you do not initially agree on
    which features your Website should have. How can you predict your project's outcomes if
    scope can vary? XP methods certainly call for some "Extreme Project Management"
    techniques.

    Fortunately, nobody will allow scope to continually vary without a good reason, even
    while engaging in XP. Here are some tips to keep a grip on scope while using this
    development approach:

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