Feature Driven Development : Still Relevant?

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on May 11, 2006 |
Brad Appleton is known to the Agile community for his work in the area of configuration management, including his work on Software Configuration Management Patterns: Practical Teamwork, Effective Integration. Recently, he has also been blogging on Feature Driven Development - not surprisingly, since FDD is described as one of the few agile methods that explicitly mentions software configuration management. Those blog entries have now evolved into a complete article in April's issue of CM Crossroads, whose theme is Agile Development Practices.

Feature-Driven Development was initially described by Peter Coad and Jeff DeLuca in chapter six of the book Java Modeling in Color with UML, published in 1999. At the time some dismissed it, saying it retained too much from traditional "waterfall" methods. For example: unlike Extreme Programming, which is test-driven and promotes "generalists", FDD is more model-driven and retains the concept of specialist roles. FDD also has defined activities with explicit entry and exit criteria, so has a higher level of ceremony than many Agile methods. This pdf quick reference gives a quick summary of FDD's phased activities.

And yet it has since developed into a complete methodology with notable promoters within the Agile community. So which is it? Too heavy? Too phased? Or Agile enough to be worth another look?

In his thorough CM Crossroads article Feature-Driven Development - an Agile Alternative to Extreme Programming Appleton outlined the practices of FDD, including the optional practice of "modeling in colour" and then compared it with Model-Driven Development and the far end of the Agile spectrum, Extreme Programming. He concluded that FDD fills certain process gaps without giving up Agility, summed up by his observation that "FDD is Football-Driven Development (and XP is Rugby)". The arcticle ended with a list of resources for further reading on FDD.

It is worth noting that Appleton recommends FDD as an Agile method suitable for a large projects and companies, especially those striving for CMM/CMMI certification, suggesting that FDD may be worth a look for those in a position to choose or recommend an enterprise development approach.

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