Evolutionary Prototyping Process – Georgia Tech – Software Development Process

The next process model I want to discuss is evolutionary prototyping, which works in four main phases. We start from an initial concept, then we design and implement a prototype based on this initial concept, refine the prototype until it is acceptable, and finally we complete and release the prototype. Therefore, when developing a system using evolutionary prototyping, the system is continually refined and rebuilt. So it is an ideal process when not all requirements are well understood. Which is a very common situation. So, looking at this in a little more details, what happens is that developers start by developing the parts of the system that they understand, instead of working on developing a whole system, including parts that might not be very clear at that stage. The partial system is then shown to the customer and the customer feedback is used to drive the next iteration, in which either changes are made to the current features or new features are added. So, either the current prototype is improved or the prototype is extended. And finally, when the customer agrees that the prototype is good enough, the developers will complete all the remaining work on the system and release the prototype as the final product. So let’s discuss as we did for the previous process models, what are the main advantages and disadvantages of evolutionary prototyping. In this case, the main advantage is the immediate feedback. Developers get feedback immediately as soon as they produce a prototype and they show it to the customer and therefore, the risk of implementing the wrong system is minimized. The main negative is the fact that it’s difficult to plan. When using evolutionary prototype it is difficult to plan in advance how long the development is going to take, because we don’t know how many iterations will be needed. And another drawback is that it can easily become an excuse to do kind of do cut and fix kind of approaches in which we hack something together, fix the main issues when the customer gives us feedback, and then continue this way, until the final product is something that is kind of working, but it’s not really a product of high quality. Something else I want to point out before we move to the next software process model is that there are many different kinds of prototyping, so evolutionary prototyping is just one of them. For example, throwaway prototyping is another kind of prototyping in which the prototype is just used to gather requirements, but is thrown away at the end of the requirements gathering, instead of being evolved as it happens here.

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