Agile risk and spike

avril 22, 2018

Agile risk and spike

Risk based spike :

A spike solution, or spike, is a technical investigation. It’s a small experiment to research the answer to a problem.

For example, a programmer might not know whether Java throws an exception on arithmetic overflow.

A quick ten-minute spike will answer the question.

Why use spike?

Spikes, another invention of XP are a special type of story used to drive out risk and uncertainty in a user story or

other project facet.

Spikes may be used for a number of reasons:

Spikes may be used for basic research to familiarize the team with a new technology of domain

The story may be too big to be estimated appropriately and the team may use a spike to analyse the implied

behaviour so they can split the story into estimable pieces.

The story may contain significant technical risk and the team may have to do some research or prototyping to gain

confidence in a technological approach that will allow them to commit the user story to some future time box.

The story may contain significant functional risk, in that although the intent of the story may be understood, it is

not clear how the system needs to interact with the user to achieve the benefit implied.

Spike solutions

Spike solutions are a learning technique based on performing small, concrete experiments.

If something doesn’t work as expected, is it because your understanding of the technology is wrong?

Is it due to an unseen interaction with the production code or test framework?

Standalone spikes eliminate this uncertainty.

For stories that you can’t estimate accurately, an alternative to scheduling a spike story is to provide a high estimate.

This is risky, because some stories will take longer than your highest estimate, and some may not be possible at all.

Another option is to research problems by reading about the underlying theory and finding code snippets in books or online.

This is often a good way to get started on a spike, but the best way to really understand what’s going on is to create

your own spike.


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