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Iterative/Incremental Development -I

JavaFAQ Home » Java Notes by Fred Swartz Go to all tips in Java Notes by Fred Swartz


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There are many ways to divide the Software Development Life Cycle. I've choosen some common terms, but don't be surprised to see other terms. Here's a brief explanation of the what each means.

  • Analysis - Also called requirements analysis. This is the process of figuring out what the customer wants or needs.
  • Design - This is the process of deciding how to structure the program. For large projects this is often divided into two stages: architectural design and detailed design.
  • Testing - This is the process of trying to detect errors in the program. For large programs this is typically divided into two parts: unit testing tests individual modules and integration testing sees if the total program works when all the modules are run together.

Waterfall technique -- traditional, but risky

When you understand a problem and its solution very well, it's possible write a program by following the steps at the left. But problems are rarely understood as well at initially thought, and this "waterfall" approach has turned out to be responsible for an Waterfall stepsextraordinarily high number of software project failures. There are several reasons for this.
  • Mistakes in the understanding the the early phases (eg, requirements analysis and design) that are not discovered until the testing or integration phases are expensive (ie, time consuming) to fix, costing much more time (eg 20x) to fix than if they had been done right the first time. The earlier mistakes are discovered, the easier they are to fix. The cost of finding an error that must be fixed in the completed design or coding phases is usually quite high. Student programs often suffer from this in several ways.
    • The requirements of a programming problem may not be well understood. For example, the instructor may not have written a clear problem statement.
    • If the student is designing their own project, they may not always be clear about what they want. Typically, the idea for a student project evolves as the project progresses.
    • Sometimes the programming solution may not be well understood, and a plan is made based on incorrect ideas about what will work.
  • The resources (ie, time) required to complete a program are not accurately estimated (almost always in the optimistic direction). In commercial development this results in late delivery and cost overruns or cancellation. In student programs it means that the program doesn't run, with unhappy consequences.
This are some of the typical reasons that use of the Waterfall methodology is not recommended. An iterative/incremental approach is better.

Disadvantages compared to iterative method

  • The cycle of getting rid of compilation errors can be unnecessarily long.
  • The output may not be what you want, but when debugging an entire program, it's harder to identify the source of the error.

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