Monday, November 9, 2009

What is Iteration Zero?

Someone asked a very interesting question in the Agile Alliance LinkedIn group. Discussions about iteration zero have come up before, but this one was specifically focused on the situation where the architecture was not well understood.

In case you are new to Agile or Scrum, iteration zero is the term for that first sprint where you know you won't be delivering software that is adding value for the customer. It's the "let's-get-our-ducks-in-a-row-so-we-don't-bomb-the-first-sprint" sprint.

Many people use sprint zero when they transition to agile for converting their project plan into a backlog and seting up the environments needed for CI and other XP practices. Some use it to kick off a project and understand the underlying system being built on top of.

In this discussion though, it got me to thinking about a past project where we were starting from scratch. We had nothing, and we had never developed in this technology before. So, what to do?

Remember, a sprint should always have an outcome or goal. And, it should always be demonstrable! The original poster asked about unknown architecture, common impediments, and differences to non-agile projects. Here's what I contributed to the forum:
Iteration 0 should result in a compiled installable "Hello World!" system (example: user shall be able to login and logout). Common impediments are purchase, license, hardware, network, and system related.

In an ad hoc PM practice (or traditional), there would be a huge "balloon payment" (to borrow from technical debt metaphors) at the end of the project to take this built system and install it in the real world. Iteration 0 is a way of beating this problem up front and then refactoring along the way as you learn instead of having to rebuild based on the mistakes uncovered at the end during "stabilization".
What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I like to do Iteration 0, followed by a Tracer Bullet all the way through the major risks in a system. If you can't do all that in one month, then you've started too big a project. Take a smaller bite.