Choosing what to work on at the start of a project
Posted by Pete McBreen 18 Sep 2022 at 22:58
This was prompted by watching a presentation by Chris Matts, who pointed out that he often sees teams that deliver a Login screen as the first part of a project. A common pattern he observed was teams delivering the easy parts first and only then tackling the harder parts of the project. The unfortunate outcome of this was that the teams backloaded the project risks, which made the eventual delivery date hard to predict.
His suggestion was to undertake the high risk work first, so as the project moves on the easier stuff moves to the front of the queue and hence the end date becomes more predictable at time progresses. Unstated but part of this is that the team gets better at delivery as the project progresses, so the easier work can be done faster as less learning is needed.
Similar thoughts on the same problem
- Alistair Cockburn’s Walking Skeleton as presented in Crystal Clear
- The Executable Architecture idea from the early versions of the Unified Process
- The Spike Solution idea from eXtreme Programming
Related to this is the idea from Agile of learning from the delivered system. The goal is to learn and respond to that learning as early as possible, so the key idea is to manage the risks by choosing to work on the high risk (business or technical) first.
This is different from the idea of doing the high value items first, mainly because the value of a feature is a guess by the business, but the risk associated with a feature can be assessed. The team knows whether they have built something like the feature before and know how stable the technology is. The business owners know if they have a really clear idea as to how the feature will work, and how the feature will be accepted in the marketplace. All features that score highly on uncertainty need to be scheduled early, so that if the idea does not work, the project can steer towards a different outcome.