Disciplined Teams vs. Agile Teams: Differences and Similarities in Software Development

Disciplined Teams vs. Agile Teams: Differences and Similarities in Software Development

Antonio Alexandre Moura Costa, Felipe Barbosa Araújo Ramos, Dalton Cézane Gomes Valadares, Danyllo Wagner Albuquerque, Emanuel Dantas Filho, Alexandre Braga Gomes, Mirko Barbosa Perkusich, Hyggo Oliveira de Almeida
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4165-4.ch008
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Software development has been considered a socio-technical activity over the past decades. Particularly, in the case of software engineering, the necessity to communicate effectively with stakeholders and team members has been progressively emphasized. Human resources play a critical role in the success of software projects. Many techniques, methods, tools, models, and methodologies have been proposed, applied, and improved in order to help and ease the management of the software development process. Regardless of the software development methodology adopted, delivering a quality product in a predictable, efficient, and responsive manner is the objective for every team. Disciplined and Agile teams have different characteristics, but also share common aspects when working to accomplish their goals. The main motivation of this chapter is to present the differences and similarities of both teams in the context of software development.
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Delivering high-quality products in time and without budget overrun is still a significant struggle for most software organizations. Among the most common reasons are inaccurate estimates of needed resources, unmanaged risks, sloppy development practices, poor project management, commercial pressures, among others (Charette, 2005; Macnab & Doctolero, 2019). Software projects failures have a major negative impact on the organizations and can deeply compromise its future.

Projects continue to proliferate in society today, in both the public and private sectors of the economy. Investments in projects number in the trillions of dollars annually. Just as ubiquitous as these projects, unfortunately, are their significant failure rates. The CHAOS reports have identified the current state of project success rates across organizations, noting that in spite of much higher visibility and importance placed on project performance, failure rates have remained high and relatively stable across over a decade of research. (Serrador & Pinto, 2015)

When a software project fails, it jeopardizes an organization’s prospects. If the failure is large enough, it can steal the company’s entire future. In one stellar meltdown, a poorly implemented resource planning system led FoxMeyer Drug Co., a $5 billion wholesale drug distribution company in Carrollton, Texas, to plummet into bankruptcy in 1996. (Charette, 2005)

For a long time, Disciplined approaches had been used to increase project success. These approaches, also known as plan-driven or heavyweight methodologies, are conducted in a linear way, whereas process activities of specification, development, validation, and evolution must be performed in sequential order, which means that an activity must be completed before the next one begins. Due to the heavy aspect of the Disciplined approaches, several consultants have developed methodologies and practices with more emphasis on people, collaboration, customer interaction, and working software, rather than on processes, tools, documentation, and plans. These approaches, known as Agile methods, have been gained popularity over the past years, especially after the advent of the Agile Manifesto in 2001 (Fowler & Highsmith, 2001). Unlike Discipline approaches such as the Waterfall model, the Agile ones promote continuous iteration of development and testing throughout the software development lifecycle.

Agile methods are based on adaptive software development, while Disciplined approaches are derived from the predictive approach. Disciplined teams work with a detailed plan and have a complete list of requirements that must be implemented in the next months or in the entire lifecycle of the product. Predictive approaches entirely depend on the requirement analysis and detailed planning at the beginning of the cycle. Any change must go through a rigorous change control management and prioritization. In adaptive methods, there is no extensive planning and only clear tasks are related to the features that must be developed. Agile teams are more adaptable to dynamic changes in product requirements. Communication and minimal documentation represent ordinary characteristics of agile software development. Also, customer interaction is another strong suit for these approaches. While Agile methods are indicated for small and medium projects, disciplined approaches are more suitable to the large ones.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Software Developers: The person who is responsible for creating the technical specification and write the software.

Plan-Driven: Are processes where all of the process activities are planned in advance and progress is measured against this plan.

Software Organization: Is a company whose primary products are various forms of software, software technology, distribution, and software product development.

Software Engineering: The application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software, and the study of these approaches.

Software Product: Is a product, software, which is usually made to be sold to users, and users pay for license which allows them to use it.

Software Development Methodology: Is the process of dividing software development work into distinct phases to improve design, product management, and project management.

Agile Software Development: Is an umbrella term for a set of frameworks and practices based on the values and principles expressed in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and the 12 Principles behind it.

Project Manager: A project manager is a professional responsible for leading a project from its inception to execution, which includes planning, execution and managing the people, resources, and scope of the project.

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