Book Review: Rapid Development

Rapid Development

Author(s)

Steve McConnell


My Rating

star star star star star

It’s quite an old book (1996), but with the Steve McConnell name on it and recent endorsements on the blogs of some high-profile developers, I immediately got excited about this book - particularly wondering if it would be as good as Code Complete 2.

Ok, so it’s aimed at managing projects – not really something that excites me a great deal, and it’s 600 pages - going to take me a while when there are other books I could be reading. But my heart was set…..and here’s how I found it.

The Meat

Before Steve appears like the genie from the lamp, guaranteeing your wish of rapid development, he brings you down to earth by explaining that rapid development is not easy – and first you need to attain efficient development: avoid classic mistakes, development fundamentals, risk management, schedule oriented practices.

Steve explains those four concepts and their importance, and as throughout the rest of the book, he uses a fictional story to illustrate the case. I found the stories to be quite amusing, but importantly they give you a mental image – a totally believable one.

An important part of the book is the discussion on educating clients about the trade off of functionality, cost and speed – they all have to be balanced or you're just heading for failure. Later in the book, though, there is information about to how to be flexible to the clients needs. It’s this kind of balanced, unbiased approach that adds a lot value to the book.

The section about developer morale and motivation was incredibly accurate – I’m sure every developer who reads it will agree. Hopefully the more managerial folks do, too – they will benefit the most. And the ones who put high-pressure environment in their job spec will probably feel a bit stupid.

I should also point out that there are useful gems in here for mere developers, too. Steve will teach you how your thin-air estimates are statistically 25% too optimistic, and provide an alternative – an itemised break-down with a best and worst case scenario that becomes more accurate as time goes by. No more putting yourself under pressure because you made an overly optimistic estimate.

One last thing – stats fans will love this book.

Conclusion

As a Steve McConnell fan-boy, you’ll have to trust me that this book is an entertaining and insightful read. While a little dated in places, the majority is totally relevant, and the closer you are to leading a project – the more drinks you will be buying Steve for making your life easier. But as a developer, like me, you’ll still get your money’s worth.

I didn’t want to make this a massive review, so I haven’t talked about concepts like developer gold-plating, and silver bullet syndrome, to name but a few. But they are very worthwhile understanding

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