One of the principles of Agile is “working software over comprehensive documentation”.
I’ve seen many project teams misinterpret this principle. In Agile, working software is valued more than comprehensive documentation. This doesn’t mean documentation is not required. If you start a software project without documentation, you are in for trouble.
Even in Agile, a small set of critical documents are required.
Below are the 4 critical documents needed for software projects:
1) Why (objectives): The Project Charter – All projects need a written document that explains why the project is needed. What problem is going to be solved? What benefits will be had by delivering the project?
This doesn’t need to be a large detailed document. The point is that the team and organization have taken the time to document clear objectives. I’ve seen teams document the MVP (Minimal Viable Product) in the charter. This helps give the team focus on the end goal.
2) What (requirements/user stories) – After creating the charter, the scope of the work needs to be captured. In Agile, the scope is documented in the form of user stories. In Waterfall, the scope is documented as requirements.
3) When (schedule):All projects need to have some form of a schedule. Whoever is paying for the project deserves this. Imagine you are considering paying a builder a large sum of money to build you a new deck. You’re about to sign the contract and the builder tells you he has no idea how long it will take to build the deck. I think the chances of hiring that contractor are slim.
4) How much (budget): The cost of the project has to be estimated, approved, and documented. Through the project, the cost needs to be monitored to ensure you stay on budget.
The act of creating these four documents will force the team to make clear decisions. The documents will also provide direction for the project.
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