Historically, the software development approach used throughout Wall Street has been the ‘waterfall’ method, which calls for strict, lengthy analysis and documentation of requirements. For a one-year project, for example, three to six months might be spent on needs analysis. ‘The business people are expected to define 100 percent of their requirements up front before the project even starts’, Chapman says. ‘People get stuck in this analysis paralysis – they spend months and months trying to define what they want.’
Another three to six months can be devoted to software design, then the actual program finally is written. ‘Inevitably what happens is requirements change, integration becomes very difficult and all the risky software development happens at the end of the development effort’, Chapman explains. ‘The waterfall approach has a horrible track record of delivery.’
Agile software development is designed to delivery software more quickly yet maintain high quality. In agile methods, every two or four weeks, businesspeople get a small amount of code to review and the opportunity to change the requirements. ‘Imagine a hedge fund where traditionally a new credit derivatives trading system would take a year to build using the waterfall approach, with businesspeople writing six months’ worth of documentation versus using an agile approach, where some of the system is delivered in two weeks, and it’s OK if you change your mind’, Chapman says. ‘For the hedge funds particularly, agile is an... [continues]
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