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Microsoft Counting On Scrum and XP


Last fall Microsoft launched Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk 2006 in San Francisco and for SQL Server it was the first really major release in five years. "It's been a little bit long in the making," Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO said at the launch, acknowledging that the company needed to get more agile and to produce software faster, to the tune of delivering technology every 18 to 24 months. "We're definitely committed to a much closer cycle time. Not just for the next release, but from here on out."

eWeek reports that one way Microsoft's development teams intend to deliver on this is through the use of agile development methodologies, such as extreme programming and Scrum.

Yet, wisely, they have decided not to mandate methodology, but instead to stress product quality, thereby encouraging teams to improve their processes, echoing comments last week by Scrum co-creator Ken Schwaber.  David Treadwell, corporate VP of the .Net Developer Platform group at Microsoft is quoted as saying, "It's most important to mandate levels of quality. You have to give teams some flexibility to achieve those results as is most effective for those teams."  Providing some context for these changes, Treadwell said:

"We have realized ...that software practices we used in the mid-90s don't scale to the size of problems that we're tackling today. And we made some assumptions around the turn of the century that those processes would scale up and result in certain time frames that we would be able to ship software... what happened is as the projects got larger and larger, we introduced too many complex interdependencies on early software, more so than we could really digest throughout the system."

Back to the product launch - Ballmer summed up the release: "What we did here [with SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005] is we said we're not going to deliver our next release until we've got a whole big bunch of stuff done, including the integration of the .Net runtime into SQL Server, which was a huge piece of work for both of those two teams. So you tie them both up." Interdependencies were cited as a major stumbling block.  We can only hope the renewed emphasis on quality combined with iterative delivery will bring some good surprises for Microsoft customers, used to long waits!

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