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6510 Late Requests are More Valuable
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Software engineering books are full of suggestions on how to manage changing requirements Unfortunately, many books look at Barry Boehm s economic model8 of software development and note that the later changes occur in the process, the more they cost They therefore conclude that change is bad and needs to be resisted Resisting change makes IT people unpopular and creates an image of IT departments and systems as in exible and change resistant Each time a request is refused, this image is reinforced Software developers and their managers come to be seen as people who say No Freezing requirements might be the best way to economize within a software project, but it detracts from the overall business value When we freeze requirements, we re assuming that change requests made after some cut-off
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Also described in Ang, Thong and Yap (1997) See Boehm and Pappacio (1988)
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point are worth less than those that came along before the cut-off point Changes that come along later may be more disruptive, but this doesn t imply that they re valueless Judging requests by complexity and disruption alone is not enough: they have to be judged by value too Imposing a cut-off for requests and changes assumes that the most valuable requirements are all known by that date We assume that before that date we ll be able to capture all the requirements and assign them a value and thus a priority This assumption implies that any requests after that date are therefore less valuable There are two reasons why this assumption is wrong Firstly, as discussed in Section 65, requirements are not always captured Therefore we can t accurately assign value and priority Secondly, the ability to delay a decision is itself valuable Options theory, and speci cally real options, assigns value to possible future decisions Making an early decision reduces the value of a project, while delaying a decision and keeping our options open increases the value Therefore xed requirements are less valuable than exible requirements Delaying decisions about requirements makes software development more dif cult and increases the cost of development But, postponing decisions increases the value of the project If we act to reduce costs we also reduce value, while increasing value increases costs Early requirements documents tend to document the most obvious requirements the so-called low-hanging fruit As development proceeds, especially when prototypes are produced, everyone concerned with a project will increase their understanding of the system This understanding will lead to new requirements These requirements are potentially more valuable than those that were initially foreseen, because such requirements are the result of a deeper under-standing Consequently, ceasing development with a set of features de ned early on in the project, on a date decided before anything was developed, may result in the loss of the most valuable bene ts of the system
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66 Conclusion
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Agile software development is about making our software development more responsive: shorter development cycles, iterative development, rapidapplication development and so on Underpinning all of these ideas is the concept of improving the feedback cycle by making it both faster and clearer In order to help our companies change, we must rst change ourselves We need to recognize the role that IT plays in enabling and creating change for companies Because the bene ts of this change can be dif cult to
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see before we start work, we need to adapt to changing environments and requirements Many IT people have adopted a mindset that resists change This is paradoxical, given the role that IT plays in creating change elsewhere When IT ceases to enable and support change, it quickly becomes a block to change We actively want to reach a position where new system development is generating new ideas for the business: creating changes and ideas for innovation Changing requirements are a sign of success rather than of failure, because such changes show that change is happening
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