Managing assumptions during agile software development

Ostacchini, Ireo (2008). Managing assumptions during agile software development. Student dissertation for The Open University module M801 MSc in Software Development Research Dissertation.

Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.



Software plays an increasingly critical role in our world, yet the assumptions that underlie software development often go unrecorded, these assumptions can fail at any time, with serious consequences. This research evaluates a lightweight approach to assumption management (AM), designed to complement the agile software development methods that are gaining in popularity. Key AM tasks were drawn from previous research, and implemented over three months within a small, agile software development team. A simple database was developed for recording and monitoring assumption information. Thirty-three assumptions were recorded during the three months; a further 17 failed assumptions were recovered from the preceding three months. Two key indicators were proposed for measuring whether AM had been successful. Only one of these indicators was detected in the research results; a longer research timeframe would be required for a more conclusive analysis. A number of strong correlations were found between properties of assumptions. While the data collected depended to a large degree on the subjective estimates of the author, these judgements were validated with some success by his colleagues. In some ways, assumption management was found to be a good fit for agile development; however, the AM process was not successfully integrated into the team's development process, due to a difficulty in adapting to the required 'assumption-aware' way of thinking. Advice is offered to reserachers seeking to ease this transition, and to those looking to conduct further studies in assumption management.

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