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Agile Development: Think Big, Start Small!
By Kelly Waters

Many software development projects fail simply because they are too big.

Too big to get traction. Too big to achieve clarity. Too big to stay focused. Too big to organise and manage effectively.

And too big because by the time they’re developed the business requirements have moved on!

A key part of agile development is the principle of building software in small, incremental releases – repeatedly iterating to continuously improve the software feature by feature. This mitigates traditional risks significantly by keeping things small, and substantially improving visibility of what’s been completed.

But that doesn’t mean agile development is only a good approach for short tactical work, or for business-as-usual changes to existing products. It can also be applied equally well to larger projects and more strategic initiatives, repeating many iterations before completing an entire project or release.

In this situation I would still encourage regular releases though. Certainly as regular as possible based on the minimum requirements that make sense. Why should any project only deliver 1 or 2 releases – why not deliver releases regularly throughout the project? Apart from minimising traditional risks with software development projects, this also enables early delivery of some benefits, allowing the business to realise some value early.

My mantra, for keeping this in mind, is Think Big, Start Small!

Kelly Waters is Head of Web Solutions for Reed Business Information (UK), the world’s largest business-to-business publisher. By implementing agile development, he has transformed his department of more than 90 people. Prior to joining Reed Business, Kelly was CTO for Glass’s Information Services, Europe’s leading provider of information to the automotive industry, most famous for Glass’s Guide, the UK’s bible for used car prices. Kelly has been in software development for more than 20 years. He is well known as a narrator of agile development principles and practices, as a result of his popular blog ‘All About Agile’ (www.allaboutagile.com). He is also a voluntary business advisor for Young Enterprise, an organisation that helps young people gain valuable business experience through practical projects.

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