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«ABSTRACT The purpose of this research study is to perform a comparison and contrast analysis on three F. Davis Cardwell published longitudinal case ...»

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THE PERFORMANCE OF

AGILE METHODS

COMPARISON TO TRADITIONAL DEVELOPMENT

METHODS

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this research study is to perform a comparison and contrast analysis on three F. Davis Cardwell published longitudinal case studies to determine if there are significant and measurable differences in CSC performance between software development projects using agile methods and projects using traditional methods. The research question is explored using four criteria: differences in development fcardwell@csc.com costs, schedule performance, quality, and stakeholder satisfaction. Findings from the studies indicate that for the three case studies analyzed, agile methods performed better than traditional methods in all four criteria. Despite these findings, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that agile methods are CSC Papers 2014 universally superior to traditional methods; additional research is needed to determine the edges of agile utility.

Originally written for:

Strayer University Online Keywords: adaptive, agile, agile manifesto, ASD, cost, Crystal, DSDM, extreme programming, FDD, Advisor: Dr. Jimmie Flores incremental, iterative, lightweight programming, people-oriented, quality, safety, satisfaction, Directed Research Project – CIS 590 schedule, Scrum, SDLC, software development, XP September 9, 2012

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The inspiration for this project is due, in part, to a conversation I had concerning the ongoing disaster at Fukushima Dai-ichi in Japan, an event that history will likely record as the worst industrial accident of all time. It was observed that there is a lamentable tendency in mankind to focus on short-term rewards, to the exclusion of the “big picture.” Nowhere is this truer than in traditional business, where the focus is often primarily, and sometimes solely, on profit. In this small conversation lay the seeds of an idea, namely, that business methods

–  –  –

CSC PAPERS

© F. Davis Cardwell. All rights reserved.

THE PERFORMANCE OF AGILE METHODS:

COMPARISON TO TRADITIONAL DEVELOPMENT METHODS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abstract

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature

Chapter 3: Research Findings

Chapter 4: Conclusions

Appendixes

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F

About the Author

THE PERFORMANCE OF AGILE METHODS:COMPARISON TO TRADITIONAL DEVELOPMENT METHODS

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

CONTEXT OF THE PROBLEM

Computers and digitally controlled systems are a pervasive part of life in the early 21st century. From our alarm clocks to our power plants, every aspect of modern life is touched by computer systems.

Generally, computer systems are complex constructs of hardware, software, and networks; hardware transforms data into useful information, software controls and directs the hardware and provides interfaces between systems, and networks provide input of data and output of information for the system. The primary role of software is to translate needs or requests into instructions that, when executed on the hardware, produce a result that satisfies the original need or request. (Burd, 2010, pp. 44 – 45) Software is created to solve specific problems through the use of various software development methods. Many different approaches to developing software can be used, based on different Software Development Life Cycles [SDLCs]. Some approaches have been used since the advent of computer programming, while others are new and unique approaches to building systems that have emerged in response to development needs not satisfied by earlier methods. Generally, SDLCs are classified on a continuum according to whether they are more predictive or adaptive; predictive approaches assume that a development plan can be created in advance of the actual development, and that the new software can be developed by following this plan. Adaptive approaches assume that a development plan created in advance of the actual development is of limited usefulness, because the exact development requirements are not yet known. The predictive approaches are more traditional and were developed from the 1970s to the 1990s. Many of the newer, adaptive approaches were developed during the 1990s and into the 21st century. (Satzinger, Jackson, & Burd, 2010, p. 39) In February 2001, seventeen people dissatisfied with traditional software development approaches met at Snowbird ski resort in Utah; their goal, in addition to spending some time on the slopes, was to find a more effective way for developing software. The unanticipated outcome of this meeting was the “agile manifesto,” a new ideal for software development as opposed to traditional “heavyweight” document-driven processes. (Beck, Beedle, Bennekum, Cockburn, Cunningham, Fowler,... Thomas, 2001.) The goal of agile development is to satisfy the customer by “early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” (Beck, et al., 2001) Additionally, a goal of agile development is to introduce complaisance into the development process; a flexible process enables customers to change or add requirements late in the development cycle. (Pfleeger & Atlee, 2010, p. 59) The four tenets and 12 underlying principles forming the foundation of agile development are not new.





(Abbas, Gravell, & Wills, 2008) However, integrating these principles into the various agile software development methods has shown that practical agile development, with its “agile thinking” focus on adaptability, iterative and incremental development, and orientation to people, is an effective tool for managing an essentially unpredictable activity, i.e., software development. (Abbas, et al., 2008, pp. 2 – 3)

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

It is the contention of the author that for software development, traditional methods and agile methods are not simply two different ways to achieve the same goal. Because agile methods are based on principles that encourage cooperative and holistic problem analysis and solution synthesis, they tend to induce agile thinking into the development team. Agile thinking, with its adaptive, iterative, incremental, and people-oriented focus (Abbas, et al., 2008, p. 2), changes the way we look at problems. The ability to view problems from an agile point-of-view provides an effective basis for developing software. Effectiveness is beneficial to the software development business, because it creates a competitive advantage in an extremely demanding field. (Edwards, 2005) However, if agile

THE PERFORMANCE OF AGILE METHODS:COMPARISON TO TRADITIONAL DEVELOPMENT METHODS

thinking does in fact create such a competitive advantage, it must be measurable and verifiable; the problem of this study is whether there are significantly measurable differences in the performance of traditional and agile methods when both are used to develop real-world software projects of comparable size and complexity. Therefore, this paper will compare software development methods in order to determine if measurable differences in performance actually exist, in the hope of proving or disproving the contention that agile methods are inherently more effective methods for developing software.

MAIN RESEARCH QUESTION AND SUB-QUESTIONS

The purpose of this research project is to compare agile software development methods to traditional methods to determine if there is a measurable difference in performance between the two. Thus, the major research question that this project will explore is: Are there measurable differences in performance between agile development methods and traditional methods?

The first sub-question is: Are there significant and measurable differences in cost performance between software development projects using traditional development methods, compared to software development projects using agile development methods? This question is best explored using quantitative methods. The specific method used to explore this sub-question is a comparison and contrast analysis of longitudinal case studies between software development projects of similar size and complexity; some use traditional methods and others use agile methods. Additional data from other sources is incorporated with the case study data where relevant to the specific sub-question.

Comparison and contrast of costs between the projects provide insights into how the method used affects development costs.

The second sub-question is: Are there significant and measurable differences in schedule performance between projects using traditional development methods, compared to projects using agile development methods? This question is best explored using quantitative methods. The specific method used to explore this sub-question is a comparison and contrast analysis of the same case study material used for the first sub-question, along with data drawn from additional sources as it relates to the specific sub-question. Comparison and contrast of schedule performance between the projects will provide insights into how the method used affects the development schedule and completion of the projects.

The third sub-question is: Are there significant and measurable differences in quality between projects using traditional development methods, compared to projects using agile development methods? Because quality is difficult to define precisely, this question is explored using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The specific method used to explore this sub-question is a comparison and contrast analysis of the same case study material used for the first sub-question, along with data drawn from additional sources as it relates to the specific sub-question. Comparison and contrast of quality factors between the projects will provide insights into how the method used affects project quality. Of special interest is a comparison of the projects with regard to how well they minimize faults and mitigate risks. Useful software is inherently complex; the consensus within the software development community is that it is practically impossible to remove all potential faults from software, especially considering the fact that the software’s operating environment is constantly changing. Of necessity, the focus within the community has been on minimizing faults and mitigating risk from faults.

The fourth sub-question is: Are there significant differences in stakeholder satisfaction between projects using traditional development methods, compared to projects using agile development methods? The term “stakeholder” refers to the people affected by the project, in this case, by the software development project being examined. (Schwalbe, 2011, p. 10) For the purposes of this paper, stakeholders will be divided into three groups for analysis: Developers, those involved with actually creating the software developed by the specific development method; management, those

THE PERFORMANCE OF AGILE METHODS:COMPARISON TO TRADITIONAL DEVELOPMENT METHODS

involved with managing and overseeing the development of the software created by the specific method; and customers, those who use the software developed by the specific method. Even more so than quality, stakeholder satisfaction is a subjective measure, so this question is best explored using qualitative methods. The specific method used to explore this sub-question is a comparison and contrast analysis of the same case study material used for the first sub-question, along with data drawn from additional sources as it relates to the specific sub-question. Comparison and contrast of stakeholder satisfaction between the projects as expressed within the respective studies will provide insights into how the method used affects the stakeholder experience.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

Traditionally, businesses are in business to advance the objectives of the business, and usually the traditional objective of business is to produce a profit. (Edwards, 2005) Experience with software development suggests that this focus on traditional business objectives may not be adequate in a

world increasingly dependent on software products. Consider:

• The Therac 25 was a computer-controlled radiation therapy machine released on the market in

1983. Between 1985 and 1987, the Therac-25 massively overdosed six people, resulting in deaths and serious injury. (Leveson, 1995, p. 1) After months of investigation, the root causes of the accidents were traced to two different software faults that were introduced into the software when the software was designed for earlier versions of the Therac machine. These faults were not detected and corrected in either the earlier versions or the Therac-25 version prior to the market release; however, earlier versions did not suffer catastrophic failure, as these machines were more reliant on hardware safety interlocks that were not included in the Therac-25 design due to their expense. (Leveson, 1995, pp. 44 – 49)

• On December 20, 1995, American Airlines Flight 965 experienced a “controlled flight into terrain” while attempting to land at the Cali, Columbia, airport. The crash killed 159 of the 163 people aboard. Investigators concluded that a poorly designed user interface for the computerized flight management system was a contributing factor in the crash; the captain of the flight apparently thought he had correctly entered the code for the intended destination, Cali. Due to peculiarities of the flight management system, he had instead entered the code for Bogota, 132 miles in the opposite direction. As designed, the input error into the flight management system was practically impossible to detect, requiring the pilot to drill down through multiple screens in addition to flying the plane. The code for Bogota directed the plane toward a mountain, and there was insufficient time in the emergent situation for the flight crew to detect and correct the problem. (Ladkin, 1996, pp. 57 – 60)



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