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Evolutionary Design: Replacing UML and Planned Designs

By Dick Weisinger

Planned design versus Evolutionary design. Planned designed is the up-front analysis and design of a system, it’s subsystems, interfaces and flow; only after the design is complete does the coding and implementation start. Evolutionary design doesn’t bother with the up-front planning; developers create some small modules of functionality and over time new functions and features are added.

Martin Fowler, Chief Scientist at Thoughtworks, said that “most people have encountered evolutionary design in an unconstrained and ill-disciplined environment and it doesn’t work. You end up with a crappy design. And that’s one reason why people gravitate towards planned design. But in my view, extreme programming’s practices of continuous integration, testing, and refactoring actually make evolutionary design work, and more effectively than planned design. Planned design’s weakness is that creating a well-planned design is actually really tough.”

New digital platforms accelerate the ability to apply evolutionary design. Gary McGovern, CEO at Customer Carewords, said that “digital allows us to observe and participate in the evolutionary landscape in a much more nimble and flexible way. Furthermore, organizations that are thriving today can participate most effectively in this sped-up evolution. Accordingly, they have an evolutionary mindset, which allows them to start out as one thing and, where necessary, rapidly evolve into something else based on environmental feedback.

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