Extreme programming moves slowly into the enterprise

TAMPA, FLA. -- 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.

But 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 these developer-driven techniques instead of implementing them entirely.

Programmer Kent Beck developed the methodology five years ago while serving as the project leader on Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation (C3), a long-term project to rewrite Chrysler Corp.'s payroll application. Extreme programming calls for putting the customer on-site to work with development teams, sharing code techniques, pairing developers, performing automated unit testing and editing code frequently to keep it simple.

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, which had $152 billion in sales last year. But Wege said DaimlerChrysler's emphasis is on only a few extreme programming concepts, such as testing units frequently and using small development teams. Other extreme programming tenets, such as pair programming, usually aren't implemented because most development teams are dispersed and application development is often outsourced, he said.

Still, corporations are increasingly turning to new techniques to make the most of smaller development teams and 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," Dial said.

New York-based entertainment channel Noggin LLC adhered to extreme programming development 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."

What IT managers and developers are less certain of is the degree to which they will follow each tenet of the various new development principles, like extreme programming and agile modeling. Most said they're introducing select parts of these methods, but others are taking on the whole methodology.

Capital One Financial Corp., for example, launched an extreme programming project in the spring to develop call center applications, said Steve Metsker, software development manager at the Falls Church, Va.-based company. Metsker said the call center application that the group developed using extreme programming techniques was a success, but he added that a new project to develop a customer management application at the financial services company will focus less on specific extreme programming techniques.

Instead, Capital One is adopting more general agile modeling methods, such as delivering working software quickly, using simple code, obtaining rapid feedback and turning in code frequently in small units.

"There are some aspects of [extreme programming] that are extreme, and some wonder whether something extreme is right for their company," said Metsker.

Attendees also noted that extreme programming isn't right for every organization.

Motorola Inc., for example, used parts of the technique 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.

"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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Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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