Developers approach extreme programming cautiously

As corporations struggle to complete application development projects on time, within budget and without lots of buggy code, they're taking a closer look at new development methods, such as extreme programming.

While interest is growing within the ranks, attendees at the Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications 2001 conference here said most companies are taking a piecemeal approach to using developer-driven techniques, such as extreme programming and agile modeling, instead of implementing them entirely.

Programmer Kent Beck developed the extreme programming methodology five years ago while serving as the project leader on Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation, a long-term project to rewrite Chrysler Corp.'s payroll application.

Today, Stuttgart, Germany-based DaimlerChrysler AG still uses extreme programming within several application development groups in the U.S. and Germany, said Christian Wege, portal and Web application architect at the automaker.

A la Carte Approach

But Wege said DaimlerChrysler emphasized just a few extreme programming approaches, such as unit testing and conducting frequent code reviews. Other tenets, such as pair programming, usually aren't implemented because most development teams are dispersed and application development is often outsourced, according to Wege.

Still, corporations are increasingly turning to new techniques to make the most of smaller development teams and to contend with more complex, distributed applications, said Chris Dial, an analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

"For new types of applications like Web services, the demand for well-structured code increases, and it's not possible to cut corners on design," said Dial.

New York-based entertainment channel Noggin LLC adhered to extreme programming techniques when it recently launched an interactive Web site that ties into the taping of its shows. The project was managed by CodeFab Inc., a New York-based development shop.

"We kept breaking [the project] down into many smaller projects," said Kenny Miller, vice president of programming and production at Noggin. "My fear was that the project would collapse under its own weight. [Extreme programming] allowed us to make incremental progress."

IT managers and developers are less certain of the degree to which they will follow each tenet of the new development methodologies.

Motorola Inc., for example, has used parts of extreme programming in some of its development organization but found that it wasn't useful for global development projects, said Ron Crocker, senior technical architect at the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company. "[Extreme programming] values small teams, and that's not always possible," he said.

But some developers say full-throttle extreme programming will drive higher quality and more rapid application development.

"The problem with [extreme programming] is the name," said James Knox, an independent development consultant in Ottawa. "After a lot of managers hear the name, it's downhill from there, and they get turned off," citing the word extreme as radical.

Knox said "there was zero management support" for extreme programming at his previous employer, so he struck out on his own to develop projects using the methodology.

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Lee Copeland

Computerworld
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