Friday, March 09, 2007

Incremental Adobe

Adobe edits the development cycle

The change we made was going from a traditional waterfall method to an incremental development model. Before, we would specify features up front, work on features until a "feature complete" date, and then (supposedly) revise the features based on alpha and beta testing and fix bugs. But we were scrambling so hard to get all the committed features in by the feature complete date - working nights and weekends up to the deadline - that the program was always very buggy at that point. We'd be desperately finding and fixing bugs, with little time to revise features based on tester feedback.

At the end of every cycle, we faced a huge "bugalanch" that required us to work many nights and weekends again. Of the three variables: features, schedule, and quality, the company sets the schedule and it's only slightly negotiable. Until feature complete, we could adjust the feature knob. But when we hit that milestone, quality sucked and we had only a fixed amount of time until the end. From there to the end, cutting features was not an option and all we could do was trade off our quality of life to get the quality of the product to the level we wanted by the ship date. We've never sacrificed product quality to get the product out the door, but we've sacrificed our home lives.

The quality of the program was higher throughout the development cycle, and there have been fewer total bugs. Instead of the bug count climbing towards a (frighteningly high) peak at "feature complete", it stayed at a much lower plateau throughout development. And we were able to incorporate more feedback from outside testers because we didn't switch into "frantic bug fix mode" so early.
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