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7.3: Build Confidence

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    Intent Improve your chances of overall success by demonstrating results in regular increments.


    How can you overcome the high degree of skepticism that customers and team members often have for any kind of software project?

    This problem is difficult because:

    • Few software projects meet requirements, come in on time, and stay within budget. The skepticism that accompanies most projects can easily lead to defeatism, and projects can fail as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • Users rarely get what they really want or need.

    • It can be hard to convince either the users or even your own team that the legacy system can really be salvaged.

    Yet, solving this problem is feasible because:

    • You don’t need to solve all the problems at once.


    Create a positive atmosphere by demonstrating some positive results as early as you can, and continue to do so on a regular basis.


    Pick short intervals for delivering new results. At each step, try to agree together with the users what are the smallest results that can demonstrate real value.



    • Both users and developers can measure real progress.

    • It is easier to estimate the cost of smaller steps.


    • It takes time to frequently synchronize with the users.

    • Users may resent the extra work it takes to use the new system in tandem with the old one.

    • If you succeed to demonstrate good results early in the project, you may raise expectations too high.


    • Some requirements can be hard to break down into small steps, particularly if they entail architectural changes to the system.

    • Reengineering teams must be careful not to alienate the developers of the original system, since they are one of the most valuable sources of information.

    • It is not enough to convince users — you must also take care to get commitment from management. It is hard to convince management in small steps. Plan big demos at regular intervals.


    By taking smaller steps, you reduce the risk that an individual step will fail. Frequent, positive results help to build confidence. By the same token, Extreme Programming advocates Small Releases [Bec00]. Even negative results help you to monitor progress and understand better the situation, and so help to build up confidence.

    Related Patterns

    Prototype the Target Solution and Make a Bridge to the New Town can make it easier to demonstrate results in small steps.

    It is easier to Build Confidence if you Involve the Users.

    This page titled 7.3: Build Confidence is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Serge Demeyer, Stéphane Ducasse, Oscar Nierstrasz.

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