Keeping Application Development Methodology Wars in Perspective

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There are a lot of arguments these days over the merits of various methodologies that IT organizations should use to develop applications. A lot of that debate has to do with the fervor some developers have for agile development methodologies. Some folks are apprehensive about the quality of the applications being developed that use agile methodologies given the implied lack of due diligence for governance when applications are developed too quickly.

But other folks take umbrage at any suggestion that agile development methodologies are somehow less reliable than other approaches. Scott Ambler, chief methodologist for IT for IBM Rational Software, argues that the success rates for agile development methodologies are no better or worse than other methodologies. Ambler says agile development may create some management challenges when it comes to dealing with complex projects, but even there progress is being rapidly made. And if the quality of the applications developed is relatively equal, Ambler says the business benefits derived from the use of agile development are more than justified.

In fact, Ambler notes that agile development methodologies result in a continuous development cycle that ensures that quality improves with successive iterations of the application. Not only are those updates delivered more frequently, but it allows developers to simultaneously test multiple versions of an application to find out which one resonates most with end users.

Ambler also suggests that capability pushes software development beyond the boundaries of traditional financial thinking where the cost of a given application is defined by how long it takes to create it. If the application is always being improved, it's hard to definitively say the project has a beginning and end that neatly fits within the limited parameters of a traditional spreadsheet. Ambler concedes that's obviously an argument that won't resonate with financial planners, but he says that doesn't make it any less true.

For all the debate between developer advocates, however, the thing to remember is that not all applications are equally mission critical. Building a business application has one level of risk associated with it; developing an application that could wind up affecting whether someone lives or dies requires a higher level of governance regardless of the methodology being used.

The challenge facing IT organizations is to determine which applications are most appropriate for what type of methodology. That may lead to some rollicking debates inside the IT organization. But at the end of the day, it's almost certain that most IT organizations are going to be employing multiple application development methodologies for the foreseeable future.

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