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1. Backdrop: The Science of Scrum > Complex Software Development

Complex Software Development

When I develop software, I build a logical set of instructions that send signals that control a machine in its interactions with other machines, humans, or nature. The level of precision required for successful software ranges from the incredible to the truly daunting. Anything can be complex. When complex things interact, the level of complexity goes through the roof. I’ve limited my enumeration of complexity in software development to the three most significant dimensions: requirements, technology, and people.

It is possible to have simple software requirements. A single customer who is the only person who will use the system can spend enough time with the developer that the two can agree exactly what to build. Assuming that this customer dies immediately after imparting his or her requirements, the requirements will remain constant, and there will be no changes, revisions, or last-minute modifications. More commonly, there are many stakeholders (those with an interest in the software and how it works) who have different needs and whose needs frequently change and are difficult to articulate. In most cases, these customers only really start to understand what they want when they are provided with someone else’s impression of what they want. Theirs are complex requirements because their requirements are not only ambiguous, but also constantly changing.


  

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