ALM and agile design: Part 4 – Agile design to support iterative development
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[Previously on ALM and agile design.....Part 3 - Sprint planning and design information]
During sprints, agile teams focus on development to deliver working software. Developers examine user stories to implement business needs. They also consider language best practices, design patterns, code complexity, or easiness to evolve and maintain the software. That's why agile design is an important activity during a development sprint.
Development is not a mechanical activity. You don't write code without thinking...and you have many opportunities to think while you develop a feature.
Sketches for ideation and problem solving
An image is worth a thousand words. Often, complex ideas can be conveyed with a simple diagram. Recently, I read a really serious study from researchers of an university (in UK I believe) were they tried to measure the amount of information conveyed by a picture (diagram, sketch, drawing...). They calculated a 84/1 ratio. So according to them, a picture is worth 84 words. It is not 1000, but it is not that bad!
So anyway, sketches are useful to convey and discuss ideas. And sketches are definitively design elements. They help teams agree on the structure and the behaviors of a component.
During a development sprint, the team can have a need for a quick design activity. The “design in a flash” session can happen anytime to address a new technical problem uncovered. Such design sessions are not planned ahead of time. They are part of the development activities. Only the right teammates are involved to provide their input, and the session can last only 15 minutes.
Designs as input to development activities
When design information is available (sketches or others), agile team members can reuse it to better understand the tasks they have to complete.
To create a test or implement a new feature, a developer can quickly take a look at the design of the component. Of course, the user story is important, but the design will provide other key information such as the relationship with existing components, the interfaces, or the technology to use.
Because software programming requires some thinking, design is part of development activities. In a software intensive system, a component does not work in isolation. It interacts with other components. Good thinking (design) leads to coherent and resilient architecture, which is key to agility..