Preston Smith's Corner

What if time-to-market doesn’t completely satisfy our objectives?

March 2005 Quick Tip

Many clients place great emphasis on rapid development, both for its direct market payoff and for its beneficial side effects. For instance, speed often ties to efficiency. Consider the efficient movements of a speed skater or the clean tack of a racing yacht.

But often you have other important objectives in developing a new product, such as high reliability in a life-critical device, or tight cost constraints on a mass-market consumer item. How can you blend such objectives with speed?

Barry Boehm, in his recent book, Balancing Agility and Discipline, shows how to do this for software development, and you can adapt the technique to non-software products. See a review of this book. Boehm assesses a project’s objectives on five relatively independent axes. For instance, one axis is dynamism, which measures flux in product requirements.

Associated with this, you can ask, “How much requirements planning is best?” If you spend lots of time in detailed requirements planning when the requirements are likely to change anyway, you risk much wasted planning effort. On the other hand, if you do not plan requirements enough, you risk missing an important requirement or not understanding one well enough. Between these two extremes is a “sweet spot” where the opposing risks are acceptable. The sweet spot’s location varies by project but depends on several factors that become apparent as you assess the opposing risks.

Furthermore, exploration of the opposing risks may suggest effective management techniques that control both risks at low cost. For instance, rapid prototyping may allow robust assessment of requirements without extensive requirements planning.

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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