CTO FORUM - Taking programming to the extreme

XP is not just a new version of the Windows operating system. It also stands for a more ad hoc approach to software development concept known as "extreme programming," which was debated by a panel at the CTO Forum conference here on Wednesday.

Extreme programming involves high degrees of interaction between programmers and customers and a design-as-you-go approach. Panel moderator Craig Larman, director of process and methodology at Valtech, a consulting house located in Addison, Texas, called the concept "the most constructive and disruptive" at the conference, playing on the theme of the event, which is "Constructive Disruption."

There are misunderstandings about extreme programming, such as the idea that it is about programming in short iterations, Larman said.

Panelists noted a hybrid approach to programming, the unified process, which places more emphasis on writing down requirements than does extreme programming. But Rowland Archer, CTO at Haht Commerce Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., hailed the extreme variety, particularly the notion of having the customer in the same room with the programmers.

"Part of what changes when a customer is in the same room is the software ends up getting used," Archer said. "There's just a whole emotional binding process that happens when involving the whole team through the whole process."

Another panelist, Dave Burleigh, who holds the title of technology visionary at business consulting firm ValutationRepairman.com, also supported having programmers and customers together during the development process.

"If you can get people in the same room, you get people at least communicating," in ways that they otherwise might not have, Burleigh said.

If programmers cannot be located in the same room, there are opportunities to build "virtual teams" located in dispersed geographic regions, said Grady Booch, chief scientist at Rational Software Corp., in Cupertino, Calif.

Extreme programming also features two programmers using the same system. The paired approach "keeps you much more on track," said panelist Kent Beck, director at Three Rivers Institute, a Merlin, Ore.-based software development house.

Beck declared, "Everything about XP that has to do with social change is where you get all the resistance."

The big issue in software development is getting executives and developers on the same page, Beck said. "The real challenge is getting the CFO to realize low-cost bidder means nothing," Beck added.

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