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by Ken Orr

Adapted from Adaptive Software Development. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. See below for copyright notice.
Ken Orr

If I could, I would give a copy of Jim Highsmith's book to everyone involved in developing large systems—end users, managers, IT professionals, and most especially IT project managers! Jim's message is simple but vitally important: Large information systems don't have to take so long, they don't have to cost so much, and they don't have to fail. Unfortunately, as simple as Jim's message is, making it happen is an enormously difficult undertaking in most large organizations.

While many project management books deal extensively with the need for building systems faster in today's business workplace, Jim's is the first book I've read that addresses what must happen when management is faced both with the need for high-speed delivery and with business requirements that are rapidly changing as well!

Jim's solution to both these problems is straightforward—a radical form of incremental development. But actually developing large systems incrementally is a considerably more difficult business than just talking about it. Historically, large organizations tend to attack all problems by breaking them into pieces and assigning each of the pieces to different organizational units for parallel development. Management then places its faith in managing to predefined budgets and schedules, but usually does so without any clear idea of what exactly the completed project will produce or how the major pieces, the subprojects, ultimately will fit together.

Jim's approach combines the best features of techniques that have been used piecemeal for a long time: customer focus groups, versioning, time-boxed management, and active prototyping. Used individually, these approaches can be effective; combined, they are dynamite.

In my own consulting work, I am often called in to turn off the life support on large, failed projects. Most of these systems fail because they lack the right systems strategies and because they take too long. Projects lasting three-to-five years are rarer and rarer these days because organizations know that they have to implement systems earlier to meet changing business needs. On the other hand, unstructured, short-term projects are a maintenance nightmare. So, since large-scale projects won't simply go away, they need to be approached in a different fashion. In order for organizations to develop large systems more successfully, they must develop incremental implementation plans and incremental architectures, and they must begin to build individual subprojects in small, short-term pieces. Jim Highsmith's book provides the framework for doing just that.

Topeka, Kansas

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: This excerpt from Adaptive Software Development: A Collaborative Approach to Managing Complex Systems [ISBN:0-932633-40-4] appears by permission of Dorset House Publishing. Copyright © 2000 by James A. Highsmith III. All rights reserved. See http://www.dorsethouse.com/books/asd.html. The material contained in this file may be shared for noncommercial purposes only, nonexclusively, provided that this Copyright Notice always appears with it. This material may not be combined with advertisements, online or in print, without explicit permission from Dorset House Publishing. For copies of the printed book or for permissions, contact Dorset House Publishing, 1-800-342-6657, 212-620-4053, http://www.dorsethouse.com, info@dorsethouse.com, New: 3143 Broadway, Suite 2B, New York, NY 10027 USA. Additional rights limitations apply, as presented in the Legal Disclaimer posted at http://www.dorsethouse.com/legal.html.



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