DISS 725 – System Development: Research Paper 1
SDLC on a Diet
Ronald G. Wolak
A paper submitted in fulfillment of the requirements
for DISS 725 Spring 2001 – System Development: Research Paper 1
School of Computer and Information Sciences
Nova Southeastern University
An Abstract of a Paper Submitted to Nova Southeastern University in Fulfillment of the Requirements for DISS 725 Spring 2001 – System Development: Research Paper 1
DISS 725 – System Development: Research Paper 1
SDLC on a Diet
Ronald G. Wolak
The paper that follows was submitted to satisfy the requirements of DISS 725 Spring 2001 – System Development: Research Paper 1. System Development Life Cycle methodologies are mechanisms to assure that software systems meet established requirements. Traditional methodologies sometimes fall short in the new e-business environment. They are often to “heavy” to keep up with the pace of e-business software development projects. In response to this problem, so called “light” SDLC methodologies have recently been developed and put to use. In the following pages, the paper began with a brief overview of traditional SDLC processes. This was followed by an in-depth look at new lightweight methodologies. In this discussion, methods such as Adaptive Software Development (ASD), Agile Software Process (ASP), Crystal, Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM), Extreme Programming (XP), Feature Driven Development (FDD), Rational Unified Process (RUP), SCRUM, and Whitewater Interactive System Development with Object Models (Wisdom) were explored. The paper concluded with a summary of lightweight SDLC methods along with recommendations for their use.
System Development Life Cycle (SDLC) methodologies are mechanisms to assure that software systems meet established requirements (DOJ, 2000). These methodologies impose various degrees of discipline to the software development process with the goal of making the process more efficient and predictable. For the purpose of discussion in this paper, SDLC methodologies are divided into two groups (traditional and lightweight). The following introductory sections describe the problem to be investigated and the goal to be achieved. In addition, the introduction provides an analysis of the relevance of the research and discusses the paper’s five-chapter format.
Problem Statement and Goal
Traditional SDLC methodologies sometimes fall short in the new e-business software environment (Yourdon, 2000). They are often to “heavy” to keep up with the pace of e-business software development projects. In response to this problem, so called “light” SDLC methodologies have recently been developed and put to use. They are considered light because of the reduced documentation and managerial effort required. The goal of this paper is identify the strengths and weaknesses of these new lightweight methodologies and to make recommendations for their effective use.
This research paper is relevant to the topic of SDLC. The paper begins with an overview of traditional SDLC processes. This is followed by an in‑depth look at new lightweight methodologies and an analysis of their appropriateness to different types of software development efforts.
This research paper is a descriptive study formatted in five chapters. The first chapter covers the paper’s problem statement and goal, relevance, and format. This is followed in the second chapter by a review of the literature relevant to the problem. In the third chapter, the research methods and online tools and resources employed during the completion of the paper are described. The fourth chapter presents the results of the research and provides an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of lightweight methodologies. The fifth chapter begins with a summary of traditional and lightweight SDLC methodologies. This is followed by recommendations for the effective use of the new techniques. Finally, the paper concludes with an overall summary.
SDLC methodologies have
recently gone on a diet in order to better meet the requirements of many
software projects. In the following pages, this paper provides a review of
literature relevant to this trend, a description of research methods employed,
results of the research, recommendations for effective use, and an overall
Review of Literature
The literature review that follows is organized by subject heading. Those subjects include traditional SDLC and new lightweight SDLC methodologies. Included in the discussion of lightweight methods are nine currently used models.
Traditional SDLC Methodologies
Rothi and Yen (1989) provided a brief review of traditional SDLCs. In their journal article, they related how the use of traditional software development models is numerous and often regarded as the proper and disciplined approach to the analysis and design of software applications. Examples of such models included the code and fix, waterfall, staged and phased development, transformational, spiral, and iterative models. The authors also described how traditional SDLCs have the same goal and are similar in the approach they use to achieve it.
A related article by the U.S. Department of Justice described how the primary goal of any SDLC is to deliver quality software systems (DOJ, 2000). It further defined a quality system as one that: 1) meets or exceeds customer expectations, 2) works well with current and planned infrastructure, and 3) is inexpensive to maintain and enhance. SDLC is traditionally made up of several phases, each comprised of multiple steps. These steps typically include software concept, requirements analysis, architectural design, coding and debug, and system testing.
Osborn (1995) also discussed traditional SDLC techniques and how over time the phases of these approaches have become enshrined in a development cycle that includes: 1) defining requirements, 2) designing a system to meet those requirements, 3) coding, and 4) testing. Each phase of the development cycle is strictly sequenced. For example, in the waterfall model, the output of all prior effort is a prerequisite for subsequent steps (e.g. all details of requirements definition are documented before start of design, design is complete before coding, and exhaustive testing is performed prior to release).
Lightweight SDLC Methodologies
In response to traditional approaches to software development (often viewed as cumbersome and bureaucratic), new lightweight methodologies have appeared (Fowler, 2000, December). A high percentage of software development efforts have no process and might best be described as a chaotic “code and fix” activity. Light SDLC techniques are a compromise between no process and too much process. In the following sections, literature related to nine types of lightweight SDLC methodologies is discussed. These are Adaptive Software Development (ASD), Agile Software Process (ASP), Crystal, Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM), Extreme Programming (XP), Feature Driven Development (FDD), Rational Unified Process (RUP), SCRUM, and Whitewater Interactive System Development with Object Models (Wisdom).
In a recent text, Highsmith (1999) focused on the adaptive nature of new SDLC methodologies. His work with traditional predictive methodologies led to the conclusion that they were inherently flawed, in particular when applied to modern business processes. In response, he offered a new approach, Adaptive Software Development (ASD) as a framework from which to address the rapid pace of many software projects. ASD is grounded in the science of complex adaptive systems theory and has three interwoven components: the Adaptive Conceptual Model, the Adaptive Development Model, and the Adaptive (leadership-collaboration) Management Model.
In contrast to the typical waterfall (plan, build, implement) or the iterative (plan, build, revise) life cycles, the adaptive development life cycle (speculate, collaborate, learn) acknowledges the existence of uncertainty and change and does not attempt to manage software development using precise prediction and rigid control strategies (Highsmith, 1999). There are six basic characteristics of an adaptive lifecycle (Highsmith, 2000, July/August). The process is mission focused, component based, iterative, timeboxed, risk driven, and change tolerant.
Adaptive lifecycles are mission focused (Highsmith, 2000, July/August). Although the final results may be fuzzy in the initial phase, the overall mission is well defined. In addition, adaptive lifecycles are component based in the context that a group of features are developed (i.e. results, not tasks, are the focus). The process is also iterative because it emphasizes “re-doing” as much as “doing.” Another characteristic of the practice is timeboxing (i.e. setting fixed delivery times for projects). Timeboxing forces ASD project teams and their customers to continuously re-evaluate the project’s mission, scope, schedule, resources, and defects.
Lastly, adaptive lifecycles are risk driven and change tolerant (Highsmith, 2000). Similar to the spiral development model, adaptive cycles are guided by the analysis of critical risks. In addition, ASD is tolerant to change. The ability to incorporate change is viewed as a competitive advantage (not as a problem).
The benefits of ASD include the following (Highsmith, 1999):
Finally, the ASD methodology’s most important benefit is that it forces developers to more realistically estimate their ability. Lack of complete knowledge is assumed and comprehensive feedback mechanisms are built to compensate.
The Agile Software Process (ASP) was first proposed at the 1998 International Conference on Software Engineering in Kyoto Japan (Aoyama, 1998a). Unlike traditional software process models based on volume, the ASP is time-based and quickly delivers software products. The model accomplishes this by integrating lightweight processes, modular process structures, and incremental and iterative process delivery. The ASP methodology offers five major contributions to the field. These include:
However, ASP is a complex process and is therefore more vulnerable to disruption than are other lightweight and traditional SDLC methodologies (Aoyama, 1998b).
Benefits of the ASP process are its ability to efficiently manage large-scale software development efforts (Aoyama, 1998b). Evidence of this is the 75 percent reduction in development cycle time realized by Fujitsu when ASP was employed to manage a major communication software project.
The Crystal family of lightweight SDLC methodologies is the creation of Alistair Cockburn (Fowler, 2000, November). Crystal is comprised of more than one methodology because of Cockburn’s belief that differing project types require differing methodologies. Project types are classified along two lines: the number of people on the development team and the amount of risk (e.g. a 30 person project that is at risk to lose discretionary money requires a different methodology than a four person life-critical project).
Crystal methodologies are divided into color-coded bands (Cockburn, 2001). “Clear” Crystal is the smallest and lightest. “Yellow”, “Orange”, “Red”, “Maroon”, “Blue”, and “Violet” follow for use with larger groups using more complex methodologies. Each color has its own rules and basic elements. Each methodology is as light as possible and is tuned to the current project using techniques developed by Cockburn. These techniques are based on the following four principles:
For example, Crystal “Clear” is the lightest band and is suitable for use with development teams of up to six people. Rules for this band are (Cockburn, 2001):
Finally, Crystal methodologies are based on the premise that people issues can easily determine a project’s results (Cockburn, 2000, September). Software development methodologies should recognize this and take the characteristics of people into account. People are not just nameless resources as is the case with many traditional SDLC methods.
The Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) is a framework used to control software development projects with short timelines (DSDM, 2001). It was developed in 1994 (and is currently maintained) by a consortium formed by a group companies in Great Britain. The methodology begins with a feasibility study and business study to determine if DSDM is appropriate. The rest of the process consists of three interwoven cycles. These are functional model iteration, design and build iteration, and implementation.
The underlying principles of DSDM include frequent deliveries, active user communication, empowered development teams, and testing in all phases of a project (DSDM, 2001). DSDM is different than traditional approaches in that requirements are not fixed. Project requirements are allowed to change based upon a fixed timeline (i.e. timeboxed) and fixed project resources. This approach requires a clear prioritization of functional requirements. Emphasis is also put on high quality and adapting to changing requirements.
Finally, although DSDM is primarily used only in Great Britain, it has the advantage of a solid infrastructure (similar to traditional methodologies), while following the principles of lightweight SDLC methods (DSDM, 2001).
Extreme Programming (XP) is the best known of the lightweight methodologies (Highsmith, 2000, February). Proponents are clear about its appropriateness to varying types of development efforts. For example, XP works best when applied to small, co-located teams (less than ten people). XP’s basic approach is similar to most iterative rapid application development (RAD) methods. This includes three-week cycles, frequent updates, dividing business and technical priorities, and assigning stories.
XP has four key values: communication, feedback, simplicity, and courage (Highsmith, 2000, February). These build into a dozen practices that are followed during XP projects. The twelve XP practices are: planning, small releases, metaphor, simple design, refactoring, testing, pair programming, collective ownership, continuous integration, 40-hour week, on-site customer, and coding standards. One notable difference between XP and other methodologies is its emphasis on testing. Testing is the foundation of all development. In fact, XP programmers are required to write tests as they write production code. Since testing is integrated into the build process, a highly stable and expandable product is the result.
One example of the benefits of the XP methodology is the Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation System (C3) (Highsmith, 2000, February). The project was begun in the mid-1990s and was being developed in Smalltalk. In 1996, the project was in trouble due to a low quality code base. In response, the code was discarded and the project was restarted from scratch using XP as its methodology. Following this redirection, the first phase of C3 went live in early 1997. Currently, the object oriented (OO) payroll system consists of 2,000 classes and 30,000 methods.
Finally, XP is designed to allow small development teams to deliver quickly, change quickly, and change often (Highsmith, 2000, February). XP provides the absolute minimum set of practices that enable small, co-located development teams to function effectively in today’s environment of rapid development.
Feature Driven Development (FDD) is a model-driven short-iteration software development process (Coad, 1999). The FDD process starts by establishing an overall model shape. This is followed by a series of two-week “design by feature, build by feature” iterations. FDD consists of five processes: develop an overall model, build a features list, plan by feature, design by feature, and build by feature.
There are two types of developers on FDD projects: chief programmers and class owners (Coad, 1999). The chief programmers are the most experienced developers and act as coordinator, lead designer, and mentor. The class owners do the coding. One benefit of the simplicity of the FDD process is the easy introduction of new staff. FDD shortens learning curves and reduces the time it takes to become efficient.
Finally, the FDD methodology produces frequent and tangible results. The method uses small blocks of user-valued functionality. In addition, FDD includes planning strategies and provides precision progress tracking.
The Rational Unified Process (RUP) works well with cross-functional projects (Bloomberg, 1999). Published by Rational Software, RUP contains six best practices: manage requirements, control software changes, develop software iteratively, use component-based architectures, visually model, and verify quality. RUP is a process framework and can be used in either a traditional (e.g. waterfall style) or a lightweight manner. One example of the model’s flexibility is the dX process developed by Robert Martin. The dX process is identical XP and is a fully compliant instance of RUP. The process was designed for developers that have to use RUP, but would prefer to use XP.
Finally, although RUP was originally intended to help manage software projects, its flexible design makes it applicable to large e-business transformation projects (Bloomberg, 2001). After applying a few critical augmentations to the process, RUP can effectively provide a framework for enterprise-wide e-business transformation.
A scrum is a Rugby team of eight individuals (Rising & Janoff, 2000). The team acts together as a pack to move the ball down the field. Teams work as tight, integrated units with a single goal in mind. In a similar manner, the SCRUM software development process facilitates a team focus. SCRUM is a light SDLC methodology for small teams to incrementally build software in complex environments. SCRUM is most appropriate for projects where requirements cannot be easily defined up front and chaotic conditions are anticipated.
SCRUM divides a project into sprints (iterations) of 30 days (Rising & Janoff, 2000). Functionality is defined before a sprint begins. The goal of the process is to stabilize requirements during a sprint. Management continues during a sprint with short (fifteen minute) meetings each day. These meetings, called scrums, are where the team decides what it will do the next day.
Finally, SCRUM is an incremental, timeboxed development methodology with a unique feature: daily meetings where three questions are asked (Rising & Janoff, 2000). What was completed since the last meeting? What got in the way? What specific things will be completed before the next meeting?
The Whitewater Interactive System Development with Object Models (Wisdom) addresses the needs of small development teams who are required to build and maintain the highest quality interactive systems (Nunes & Cunha, 2000). The Wisdom methodology has three key components:
Wisdom is comprised of three major workflows: requirements workflow, analysis workflow, and design workflow. In addition, the methodology is based on seven models and uses four types of diagrams.
Task flow plays an important role in Wisdom and corresponds to a technology-free and implementation-independent portrayal of user intent and system responsibilities (Nunes & Cunha, 2000). This guarantees that the user interface accurately reflects the actual structure of use.
Finally, Wisdom is intended for use by small development teams and has effectively demonstrated its capabilities in several small software companies in Portugal (Nunes & Cunha, 2000). In those companies, Wisdom’s user-centered focus has resulted in improved usability, efficiency, user satisfaction, and reduced cost and complexity.
The literature review presented above began with a brief discussion of traditional SDLC methodologies. These models are often viewed as cumbersome, bureaucratic, and unsuited to the rapid pace of many software development projects. This discussion was followed by a review of new lightweight SDLC methodologies. Lightweight methodologies were developed to efficiently manage software projects subjected to short timelines and excessive uncertainty and change. Nine types were summarized. These included ASD, ASP, Crystal, DSDM, XP, FDD, RUP, SCRUM, and Wisdom.
This paper was a research-based descriptive study. The key outcome of the investigation was the identification of new lightweight SDLC methodologies and a discussion of their appropriateness to various types of software development efforts.
Research Methods Employed
The primary research method employed throughout the course of writing this paper was browser-based Internet searches. The literature reviewed included textbooks, journal articles, and magazine articles referenced by a select set of online resources. Relevant texts were located, ordered, and delivered using the FatBrain.com Internet site. The full text articles from journals and magazines were located and subsequently downloaded.
Online Tools and Resources
A variety of online resources were used to locate and download literature relevant to the goal of the paper. These resources included ACM Search (www.acm.org/dl/search.html), IEEE Digital Library (http://computer.org/search.htm), and ProQuest Direct (http://proquest.umi.com/). Perhaps the most powerful search tool to be employed was the intelligent search agent Copernic 2001.
Copernic 2001 is a well-documented freeware search agent (Copernic, 2000). It uses predefined channel sets, which allows researchers to target inquiries to all major Web search engines and also search for relevant text in newsgroups. Copernic conducts fast, multithreaded, full Boolean searches with progress displays and customizable search depth. Once results are compiled, Copernic displays returns (including name, location, and introductory text) in a right-click-enhanced list box sorted by relevance.
Another search technology utilized to gather literature was LexiBot from BrightPlanet (LexiBot, 2001). The LexiBot desktop search client acts as a universal translator for all dialects of search engines and searchable databases. LexiBot is able to search 150 services at one time using a standard query format. In addition, LexiBot’s search technology is capable of identifying, retrieving, qualifying, and organizing "deep" and "surface" content from the Internet.
In summary, this paper was a research-based descriptive study. Browser-based Internet searches were the primary research method employed. These searches queried databases that included the ACM, IEEE, and ProQuest Direct. Specialized client-based search technologies (i.e. Copernic 2001 and LexiBot) also aided in locating relevant literature.
Reducing the time-to-market is a way of life for most companies (Sims, 1997). Shrinking cycle times are commonplace in the software industry. Software developers strive to reduce cycle times because of the competitive advantages provided and the greater number of products they are able to release in the same amount of time. However, time-to-market concerns have forced many developers to make conscious trade-offs between cost, quality, and features. In addition, aberrant development practices have arisen in spite of their negative effects on reliability, quality, morale, and process management. The lightweight SDLC methodologies reviewed in chapter two emerged in response to these issues. These methods seek to bring aberrant processes back under control.
Web development efforts are an excellent example of reduced cycle timing (Strigel, 2000). They differ from the development of traditional applications in many ways. These include schedule compression, technology acceleration, staffing shortages, multidisciplinary team compositions, requirements creep, expanded user community, and security (i.e. exposure to hackers). Management of these efforts requires a balance between the one extreme of no methodology and the other of methodological overkill.
Lightweight SDLC methodologies seek to balance these two extremes (Yourdon, 2000). They are an example of the application of the risk-reward approach to investing time and resources in various development activities. Lightweight methodologies explore the line of bare sufficiency (Cockburn, 2000, September). The term barely sufficient SDLC indicates that it is an ideal and thin line varying over time within a project. A project that uses a barely sufficient methodology will be insufficient in some places and times and overly sufficient at others. However, it will be running as efficiently as possible. The lightweight methodologies discussed thus far are examples of bare sufficiency.
The following sections provide an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of lightweight SDLCs and provide examples of their successes and failures. In addition, the process of selecting a lightweight methodology and choosing the right overall methodology are investigated.
Strengths and Weaknesses
A recent study by the Cutter Consortium found that traditional SDLC methodologies “fall short in the new e-business environment. They are unable to keep up with fast-paced, ever-changing e-business projects” (Cutter, 2000). Perhaps the greatest strength of the new lightweight methodologies is that they provide a palatable alternative to the code and fix mentality that permeates today’s environment (Fowler, 2000, December). Simpler lightweight processes are more likely to be followed than traditional ones when a developer is used to no process at all. In addition, lightweight methods excel when requirements are uncertain and volatile. Traditional processes require stable requirements in order to have a stable design and follow a planned process. Another advantage of lightweight methodologies is that they force developers to think clearly about the end products they are developing.
On the other hand, one of the biggest limitations of lightweight SDLCs is their inability to handle large development teams (Fowler, 2000, December). Although XP and Crystal have been successful with teams of 45 to 50, beyond that number there is no evidence on how to use a lightweight method.
Successes and Failures
As expected, lightweight methodologies are strong in some areas and weak in others. On the negative side, when a project falls short of being barely sufficient, failure occurs (Cockburn, 2000, September). In one case, an XP project team successfully delivered a software application to a customer. After several years, new development was stopped, and the original team members went on to other projects. Since the team had never needed or developed any system documentation, efforts to later revive development failed because of the absence of adequate documentation.
On the positive side is the example of the Chrysler Compensation System discussed earlier. After a 26-person development team failed to complete what was considered a large system that required heavy SDLC, an eight-person team using XP successfully completed the project in one year (Cockburn, 2000, July/August).
Key to success when employing lightweight methodologies is their application to projects with one or more of the following enablers (Cockburn, 2000, September):
As the number of the above characteristics increase, so does the probability of success for a project employing lightweight SDLCs.
Selecting a Light Methodology
The light SDLCs discussed in this paper are all relatively new. The appropriateness of one over another is often dependant on the size and discipline of the development team (Fowler, 2000, December). When team size and discipline are low, Crystal light (the lightest of the light) is a good choice. If the development team is willing and sized around a dozen members, XP is an excellent choice. In addition, XP has been successfully applied to teams of forty members.
Key to choosing a light methodology is the understanding that the process you start with will most likely not be the optimum one for the project. The process must be monitored and adapted to meet existing conditions.
Choosing the Right Methodology
The “one size fits all” approach is not appropriate in applying SDLC methodologies to software development (Lindvall & Rus, 2000). Methodologies are effective and appropriate only under certain conditions. For example, a software process that is appropriate for an e-commerce startup is most likely inappropriate for a NASA launch application. While it is easy to accept the fact that one methodology cannot fit all projects, it is quite difficult to move beyond this fact and find the right methodology.
One option is to employ a methodology to aid in selecting the most appropriate SDLC for the project at hand (Cockburn, 2000, July/August). For example, the Big‑M methodology helps differentiate the application of multiple methodologies according to characteristics such as staff size and system criticality. Big‑M uses four principles to determine the appropriate methodology. These are:
The Big‑M methodology also uses a project grid as its primary tool (Cockburn, 2001). This grid is organized as people x criticality x priority.
Before considering the switch from traditional to lightweight methodologies, the Cutter Consortium recommends the following (Cutter, 2000):
The results chapter presented above began with a discussion of time-to-market and cycle time pressures on today’s software development efforts. An analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of lightweight SDLCs and examples of their successes and failures followed this. Finally, the process of selecting a light methodology and choosing the right overall methodology were investigated.
The “one size fits all” approach to applying SDLC methodologies is no longer appropriate (Lindvall & Rus, 2000). Each SDLC methodology is only effective under specific conditions. Traditional SDLC methodologies are often regarded as the proper and disciplined approach to the analysis and design of software applications (Rothi & Yen, 1989). Examples include the code and fix, waterfall, staged and phased development, transformational, spiral, and iterative models. Lightweight methodologies on the other hand are a compromise between no process and too much process. These new methods were developed to efficiently manage software projects subjected to short timelines and excessive uncertainty and change. Nine types of lightweight SDLCs are Adaptive Software Development (ASD), Agile Software Process (ASP), Crystal, Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM), Extreme Programming (XP), Feature Driven Development (FDD), Rational Unified Process (RUP), SCRUM, and Whitewater Interactive System Development with Object Models (Wisdom).
Strengths of these new light methodologies include their simpler processes and easier acceptance by developers who are only familiar with code and fix techniques. In addition, these lightweight SDLCs aid developers in thinking clearly about the end products they are creating. Disadvantages include their inability to handle large development teams. Lightweight methodologies are most appropriate when there are uncertain and volatile requirements, responsible and motivated developers, and customers who wish to become involved. On the other hand, lightweight methods are inappropriate with teams of more than fifty and/or the project has a fixed scope.
Lightweight methodologies re-examine the traditional assumptions that have historically been made about the commitment of resources to requirements analysis and process improvement (Yourdon, 2000). Traditional SDLCs operate on the fundamental assumption that it is worth investing resources to identify a flaw in a process because the process will be used over and over again. On the other hand, lightweight SDLCs recognize that when everything is changing and there is no assurance that processes will be reused that it makes little sense to expend the effort.
The research paper presented above was a descriptive study formatted in five chapters. The first chapter covered the paper’s problem statement and goal, relevance, and format. This was followed in the second chapter by a review of the literature relevant to the problem. In the third chapter, the research methods and online tools and resources employed during the completion of the paper were described. The fourth chapter presented the results of the research and provided an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of lightweight methodologies. Finally, the last chapter provided a summary of lightweight SDLCs and gave recommendations for their appropriate use.
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