Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Book Review: The Economics of Iterative Software Development

The Economics of Iterative Software Development, by Walker Royce, et. al., published by Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0321509358.

This is a lean book (small size, only 170 pages) which attempts to help managers and decision makers move to iterative approaches over waterfall.  The book’s well written and has some good, thought-provoking discussion in it.

You won’t find discussions of specific methodologies in this book, but you will find repeated emphasis on critical concepts like delivering running systems over useless documentation (not ignoring documentation, mind you, but delivering the right amount of it). Doing the right amount of planning at the project’s start is also emphasized: avoiding over-architecting and big design up front.

It struck me that much of the authors’ definition of “iterative” development is subtly scattered around the book. It’s not always In Your Face, and that’s actually OK because you’re able to better focus on their deeper points.

The economics part of the book’s title comes through some good discussion on ensuring you’re delivering business value, plus an entire section on measuring your project’s success. There’s good discussion in those sections to help you understand opportunity cost (if I do this, what else am I unable to do?), net present value, and a great example on prioritizing features based on their value to the business.

Some things in the book are a little vague for my tastes, but the authors did a nice job of keeping the book brief, concise, and on target.

Overall it’s a very good, useful read.

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