Beware of Expert Methodology Fads

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2004-03-29 Print this article Print

"BDUF-YAGN" is not yet a popular acronym, but it characterizes the pendulum-swing behavior of software development fads.

"BDUF-YAGN" is not yet a popular acronym, but it characterizes the pendulum-swing behavior of software development fads.

So suggested Steve McConnell, chief software engineer at Construx Software and acclaimed author of "Code Complete" and other highly regarded books on development practices, during his standing-room-only keynote speech at the Software Development West conference earlier this month.

"Big Design Up Front? You Aint Gonna Need it!" was McConnells satirical label for the popular wisdom that invokes agile methods and loosely coupled architectures to enable less structured development processes.

McConnell warned conference attendees to be highly skeptical of such claims. Its still true, he said, that mistakes made early in the development process are the most costly to correct, and he suggested that architecture choices have now replaced design choices as the highest-impact form of potential error.

Too much "expert" methodology advice swings from one extreme to another, McConnell said. The only sure thing is that the truth is not at either limit of structure or anarchy, he said. No other kind of craftsman uses a single tool, and the processes and the tools of software developers likewise need to be diverse.

The skills of the developer, he concluded, need to include choosing and using the right approaches for different types of projects and for different elements of each project.

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Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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