Agile Just Enough Architecture

January 21, 2013

Many people consider that software architecture is a burden for agile software development and that a “good” design will naturally emerge as code is produced during each Scrum sprint. This however rarely the case and as in many other activities, you have to find the right balance between doing enough but not too much software architecture. In the article, “A Risk-Driven Model for Agile Software Architecture“,  George Fairbanks, the author of the book “Just Enough Software Architecture – A Risk-Driven Approach“, explains how to achieve this balance.

The main rule is that the effort you spend on designing your software architecture should be commensurate with the risks faced by your software development project. The article examines how risk reduction is central to all engineering disciplines. It explains how to choose techniques to reduce risks and show how you can balance planned design with evolutionary design during agile software development projects.

Building the Right Scope

December 15, 2011

Use cases, user stories, or backlog items already define broadly the scope of a project. Many teams consider requirements as something provided by the business users, product owners or customers. Asking business users to provide the scope is effectively relying on someone who has no experience designing software solutions to give us a high level solution design. This article explains how project teams can work together with business users to come up with the right scope. To reach this goal, you need to start with business goals, and not with user stories, and derive the scope from that.

Agile Requirements

October 3, 2011

The clarity of requirements is an issue for many  software development projects. Based on a course on Agile Requirements, this article at summarizes the levels of Agile (and frankly non Agile) requirements and how you can use a four step process for gathering them.

Agile and Software Testing & Quality in Methods & Tools Spring 2010

March 29, 2010

Methods & Tools is a free e-magazine for software developers, testers and project managers. Spring 2010 issue has just been published with the following articles:
* Using WatiN to Leverage Common Elements in Web Testing – structure your Web testing efforts
* Five Symptoms of Mechanical Agile- detect agile adoption issues
* Writing Testable Code – testable code is better code
* Model-Based Testing Adds Value – a quicker way to functional testing plans
* Tool: Sonar – monitor code and project quality
* Tool: Express Agile Project Management – a simple tool for Scrum
* Tool: Apache JMeter – for load and functional testing

60 pages of software development knowledge that you can download from

Scrum Open Source Software Directory

February 26, 2010 is an interesting directory of open source tools for Scrum containing also links to tools reviews.

Spring 2009 issue of Methods & Tools

March 31, 2009

Methods & Tools is a free e-newsletter for software developers, testers and project managers. Spring 2009 issue’s content:

* How to Build Articulate Class Models and get Real Benefits from UML
* When Good Architecture Goes Bad
* Finding a Partner to Trust: The Agile RFP
* Database Locking: What it is, Why it Matters and What to do About it
* Code Generation for Dummies

80 pages of software development knowledge that you can download from

CMMI: Less Hyped Than Agile but Equally Popular?

February 2, 2009

A recent Methods & Tools poll examined at what stage is the CMMI approach adoption in software development organizations.

Not aware 13%
Not using 29%
Investigating 8%
Analysed and rejected 4%
Trying to reach Level 2 12%
CMMI Level 2, 3 or 4 20%
CMMI Level 5 14%

Participants: 392

Ending date: January 2009

Many software development concept of the 80s and 90s have left the spotlights of the professional press and the blogging world, either because they are soooooo obvious, as in “of course everybody is doing object oriented programming today…”, or because they didn’t meet the expected success, as the object oriented database that were supposed to replace this old relational SQL technology of the 70s….

CMMI is the successor of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) or Software CMM. The CMM was developed from November 1986 until 1997 as part of the software process maturity framework project. Then the CMMI, where “I” stands for Integration, replaced the CMM. This is certainly not currently a hyped concept. You will find no CMMI category on or and the CMMI channel on has two subscribers. I was therefore surprised to see that the adoption, ignorance or rejection rates for the CMMI were very close to the results achieved by a similar survey on Agile approaches ended at the beginning of 2008.

I didn’t find any former statistics about the CMMI adoption, so it is difficult to compare the results of this survey with other numbers. These survey results are telling us that formal process adoption is growing in software development organization. The importance of CMMI numbers can be explained by the geographical diversity of Methods & Tools readership: an important percentage is coming from Asia where the CMMI label is important to sell outsourcing services.

Knowing that CMMI adoption rate is close to the Agile rates, I wonder also if there were some overlap, thinking that there are many companies without a formal process. I found a survey on Dr Dobb’s with some numbers on companies doing both CMMI and Agile. According to this survey, the rates of success of Agile and CMMI projects are very close, just above 50%. You could interpret the results as whatever the process, as long as you have one, you improve your success rate, which would mean that some discipline bring rewards. These numbers also tell that you have still close to 50% chances of failure, which could mean that discipline is not easy to achieve in the software development world. Please note that the Version One Agile survey seems to indicate a higher rate of success for projects, even if the type of questions makes direct comparison difficult.

Although there are some evidences that CMMI and Agile can coexist, the overall impression of people dealing with process improvement is that there are still important cultural differences between the two communities. Even if the non-prescriptive nature of the CMMI is recognized by agile developers, the overall impression is that this approach are still leaning heavily on plan-oriented and documentation processes, thus conflicting with the lightweight aspects of Agile. To contradict this culture incompatibility, there is the example Systematic, where a CMM level 5 company has added Scrum on top of their process, gaining a 50% cost reduction. This maybe not so astonishing if you realize that CMMI and Agile both try to achieve process improvement and both require discipline. Managing one week Scrum iteration with daily meetings should provide a strict control of project progress. Therefore organizations that followed the CMMI way for a good reason, that is not just for having a label to sell their services, should be naturally attracted by the process improvement tools contained in Agile. Other organizations than Systematic have also added agile practices above CMMI, but the opposite doesn’t seem obvious.

Maybe the software development world would be better if people could see approaches like the CMMI or Agile as toolboxes and not cult-like concepts that should be embraced with a blind faith… and a tendency to see other movements as “heresies” that can only be condemned. As Chris O’Brien (Software Capabilities Manager at Gen-i) says “So CMMI and Agile are complementary, but the use of either should to be based on business needs. I believe both have an immense amount to offer and co-existence will make sense for many organizations – particularly those that are capable of applying learnings from their industry with intelligence and care, to achieve results.”


CMMI Main page at SEI

Software and systems firms embrace CMMI – India Trends – Express Computer India

CMMI or Agile: Why Not Embrace Both!

Dr Dobb’s article: Agile CMMI?

Mature Agile with a twist of CMMI

Scrum and CMMI Level 5: The Magic Potion for Code Warriors

Systematic Gains Chart

Methods & Tools Agile Survey

CMMI articles list in

(r) Capability Maturity Model, CMM, and CMMI are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Carnegie Mellon University.
(sm) CMM Integration is a service mark of Carnegie Mellon University.

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