Balancing Agility and Discipline

This book was written in 2004 by Barry Boehm and Richard Turner, but the fact that it is already on its 6th reprint tells something about its value. This is a very pragmatic book that tries to put in perspective agile and plan-driven software development approaches. By the way, the funny thing is that the word “waterfall” is rarely mentioned in the book. This may be due to its negative connotation and also to the fact that Barry Boehm favors a spiral approach. The book has also adopted a clever structure with a first “quick-read” part of 150 pages that provide the core of the material and then 100 pages of appendixes to treat some parts more specifically.

After a comparison of agile and plan-driven approaches, the book illustrates its vision of these two processes by presenting two project case studies. It offers also a risk-based approach for making methodology decisions that integrate agile and plan-driven practices. Even the book is not recent, it has the advantage of confronting agile and plan-driven approaches in a relatively objective way. Therefore, it is a very recommended reading for people that want to improve their software development process without wanting necessarily to be a “purist” of a particular approach. It is also a book where people that have already made their choice will be able to consider the “other” software development process with a different view and also gain a better insight on their own strengths and weaknesses.

Reference: “Balancing Agility and Discipline – A Guide for the Perplexed”, Barry Boehm, Richard Turner, Addison Wesley, 265 pages

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One thought on “Balancing Agility and Discipline

  1. One of the things I see the book has influenced over the years is the use of Kiviat (Spider) diagrams in a lot of agile articles to show multiple characteristics. Before this book, I do not recall this particular “quality tool” used as frequently.

    When Barry spoke at XP2006 in Oulu, Finland, he repeated his agile vs plan-driven phrase. Mary Poppendieck noted that this was an unfortunate duality since agile, to some new to agile coming from a large method background, would seemto be opposed to planning.

    During lunch that day, a few of us were talking and felt that the proper duality could be agile vs audit-driven. Earlier Barry had talked about his days in DoD contracting and DARPA and often being ushered to a companies “CMM Memorial Library.” Thaty triggered the thought that such a “repository of documentation” was only really used by the auditors. And they led to the “audit-driven” methodology image.

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