The discussion over which development life cycle works best has gone on for thousands of years. All life cycles can be adjusted to give the results you want, or poorly implemented and generate inadequate results. The success of any life cycle or methodology comes down to the amount of effort invested in its refinement to meet the needs of an organization. This is not difficult and is well within your grasp.
Some life cycles are better out-of-the-box at managing project risk, technical risk, design risk, approvals or changes. Others are better at getting early user feedback, tracking project progress or coordinating teams.
The out-of-the-box features are unlikely to meet all of your challenges, hence the need for refinement. For example, Agile/Scrum is very simple and provides a way to chunk work into small increments, obtain end-user feedback early and manage commitments visibly. It needs to be modified to analyze requirements, develop designs, and perform system and end-to-end testing.
Here are three points to consider when leading your organization to select and use a life cycle:
1. Determine what you want out of a development life cycle
The purpose of any life cycle is to manage customer needs, time, money, risk and quality. These are the variables that you want to define when selecting or adjusting your life cycle. For example,
- If you want to manage technical risk, add risk management and prototypes in the beginning
- If you want to manage requirements and usability risks, add more customer interaction sessions
- If you want to manage cost and schedule risks, add robust planning and estimation and an objective way to monitor effort expended and work complete
- If you want speed, focus on information handoffs, creating short documents, and finding defects and risks early
2. Refine the life cycle — don’t settle with chronic issues
A life cycle is working when you can achieve project goals and not suffer severe problems along the way. Problems will always occur, but the life cycle should help your teams identify and avoid many of them, allowing the organization to focus on the harder problems that can’t be foreseen.
If you don’t pay attention, you might see:
- Mounds of unused documentation
- Numerous additional requirements and technical issues discovered late in the project
- Wildly inaccurate estimates
- Teams treading on each other’s toes with little coordination
3. Keep it concise
Whatever life cycle you have now, or the one you create, describe it concisely. If there are 10 significant steps to your life cycle, start with five pages as the maximum size of the description, one half-page per step. More will probably not be read, so consider not creating it!
If you have questions or comments about this article, or would like to discuss your life cycle selection and refinement challenges, please contact us.[Forward this email to your boss! Subject: Here’s a cool tip for you] Quick Link
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