cut development cycle

A challenged project manager thinks about two things that seem to be the order of his everyday life: how quick and how cheap. How quick can he turn over the project to the client? How cheap can he pull it off? Wouldn’t he be the happiest PM if he can achieve both?

Or, is this achievable at all?

Let’s begin by looking again at the stages of the development process: requirements, design, execution, testing/debugging, release. For years, it had been long and tedious work—the process goes in one direction and each stage is completed before proceeding to the next—linear in other words. Nothing would be started, except the first stage, of course, until the previous stage had been finished. And quite apparently did not have room for changes in the middle of the process. Errors, therefore, would be seen at the tail end when the software had been completed.

This linear approach had been considered not only rigid, but costly, both in time and resources, exactly the things that a PM would evade and an organization would frown upon. The approach, many had believed, would likely leave organizations unable to keep up in today’s rapidly changing environment and businesses slow to adapt making survival difficult.

Today’s project manager has at his disposal various development techniques with shorter cycles collectively known as Agile software development. Through this method, the long, tedious process of development is streamlined and shortened.

Agile, as many would refer to it, allows users to reduce development cost, adapt quickly to changes in requirements and respond to user needs faster. This means that businesses benefit from Agile because of shorter development cycles (also called iterations), and frequent user feedbacks leading to a quicker and more efficient process, and higher productivity.

Advocates of the Agile approach believe that planning all requirements of the software solely at the start of the process is unrealistic because change during the course of the process is inevitable. The rigidity is outmoded and the procedure clunky.

EB2 International, a provider of end-to-end web booking services for airlines through its online booking engine QuickTRIP, has been gradually increasing its adoption of agile development principles since 2004. Michael Huynh, its Chief Technology Officer, says, “We have been looking to utilize development techniques which suit the fast-paced market environment we're in—an environment where our customers' needs are constantly changing and where speed to market is essential in realizing benefits.”

Huynh, whose background is in ERP systems, and designing, developing and implementing interactive online retail systems, has this to say about one of Agile’s advantages in his company: “The use of Agile significantly de-risks our projects. Through continuous integration and an iterative development/testing cycle, we have much better visibility on actual project status based on the completeness of a working system.” He adds that Agile also allows them do functional testing progressively and much earlier in the process to ensure that requirements are aligned.