The role of physical artefacts in agile software development: Two complementary perspectives

Sharp, Helen; Robinson, Hugh and Petre, Marian (2009). The role of physical artefacts in agile software development: Two complementary perspectives. Interacting with Computers, 21(1-2) pp. 108–116.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intcom.2008.10.006

Abstract

Agile software development promotes feedback, discipline and close collaboration between all members of the development team, and de-emphasises documentation, ‘big design up front’ and hierarchical processes. Agile teams tend to be co-located and multi-disciplinary, and rely heavily on face-to-face communication and seemingly simple physical artefacts to support interaction. In this paper we focus on the functionality of two key physical artefacts – the story card and the Wall – which, individually and in combination, underpin the team’s activity. These artefacts have two main roles – one which enables a shared understanding of requirements and one which facilitates the development process itself. We consider these roles from two perspectives: a notational perspective and a social perspective. This discussion shows how the two perspectives – the notational and the social – intertwine and are mutually-supportive. Any attempt to replace these physical artefacts with alternative support for an agile team needs to take account of both perspectives, and the complex relationships between them.

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