Mock debate ponders developer methodologies

Proponents of agile programming from IBM staged a mock debate Wednesday, pitting agile methodologies against the traditional waterfall method to stress the benefits of agile and its short, iterative development cycles as opposed to the follow-the-plan style of waterfall.

IBM's Scott Ambler, practice leader for agile development, played the role of the traditional development proponent and PC user in the staged debate during the conference in Santa Clara, Calif.. He was intentionally outwitted in the debate by Terry Quatrani, UML evangelist at IBM, who served as the agile proponent and purported Mac user.

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Pretending to talk up initial requirements modeling supported in traditional development, Ambler stressed the need for detailed estimations and project plans. Detailed specifications, he said, were "absolutely critical to your success."

But Quatrani countered that a requirements list is like a grocery shopping list, with people changing their minds once they get to the supermarket. "Your requirements are just an initial estimate," of what the development team wants to do, she said. Then, developers do what the customer wants, said Quatrani.

Ambler also promoted use of an architectural specification. "Otherwise, how will the programmers know what to build?" he said. Quatrani responded that use of modeling was important but for developers to use just enough of it -- a sketch. "I'm going to be actively involved with my programmers," she said.