Building with bricks, developing with code

January 30, 2006, 12:34 pm

We’re building an extension on the back of the house. Three weeks into the build, the foundations are down, the walls are up and the roof is on. And in many respects the builder is like an agile developer. For a start he is cursing the architect.

The build is to some extent emergent, not least because of all the hidden surprises that QA (building inspector) is throwing up. And the customer (me) is having to make decsions as the build progresses, reprioritising according to business value (or cost – how much for those folding sliding timber windows? Sorry aesthetics. Hello uPVC).

But what we can always return to are the architects plans. Not so much for the detail (much of the time the realities of the build invalidate the up-front design) rather for the vision of what is being built. I’d argue this vision is equally important in agile projects; without it can you really be sure what you are going to get? Story cards are great, but when supported with storyboards (lo-fi prototype, wireframes, call them what you will…), it is then that developers get an “a-ha” moment and see the phyiscal manifestation of the story. At least how the analyst and the customer see it. And with that tangible, visual model it is easy to gain consensus before a line of code is written.

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