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What is Agile Modeling and Why Do I Need It?

12.27.2012
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What is Agile Modeling and why do I need it?

Agile Modeling is an add-on to existing agile methodologies like Extreme programming (XP) and Rational Unified Process (RUP). Agile Modeling enables developers to develop a customized software development process that actually meets their current development needs and is flexible enough to adjust in the future.

According to Scott Ambler, Agile Modeling consists of five core values that enable this methodology to be effective and light weight

Agile Modeling Core Values:

  • Communication
  • Simplicity
  • Feedback
  • Courage
  • Humility

Communication is a key component to any successful project. Open communication between stakeholder and the development team is essential when developing new applications or maintaining legacy systems. Agile models promote communication amongst software development teams and stakeholders. Furthermore, Agile Models provide a common understanding of an application for members of a software development team allowing them to have a universal common point of reference.

The use of simplicity in Agile Models enables the exploration of new ideas and concepts through the use of basic diagrams instead of investing the time in writing tens or hundreds of lines of code.

Feedback in regards to application development is essential. Feedback allows a development team to confirm that the development path is on track. Agile Models allow for quick feedback from shareholders because minimal to no technical expertise is required to understand basic models.

Courage is important because you need to make important decisions and be able to change direction by either discarding or refactoring your work when some of your decisions prove inadequate, according to Scott Ambler.

As a member of a development team, we must admit that we do not know everything even though some of us think we do. This is where humility comes in to play. Everyone is a knowledge expert in their own specific domain. If you need help with your finances then you would consult an accountant. If you have a problem or are in need of help with a topic why would someone not consult with a subject expert? An effective approach is to assume that everyone involved with your project has equal value and therefore should be treated with respect.

Agile Model Characteristics:

  • Purposeful
  • Understandable
  • Sufficiently Accurate
  • Sufficiently Consistent
  • Sufficiently Detailed
  • Provide Positive Value
  • Simple as Possible
  • Just Fulfill Basic Requirements


According to Scott Ambler, Agile models are the most effective possible because the time that is invested in the model is just enough effort to complete the job. Furthermore, if a model isn’t good enough yet then additional effort can be invested to get more value out of the model. However if a model is good enough, for the current needs, or surpass the current needs, then any additional work done on the model would be a waste. It is important to remember that good enough is in the eye of the beholder, so this can be tough. In order for Agile Models to work effectively Active Stakeholder need to participation in the modeling process. Finally it is also very important to model with others, this allows for additionally input ensuring that all the shareholders needs are reflected in the models.

How can Agile Models be incorporated in to a project?

Agile Models can be incorporated in to a project during the requirement gathering and design phases. As requirements are gathered the models should be updated to incorporate the new project details as they are defined and updated. Additionally, the Agile Models created during the requirement phase can be the bases for the models created during the design phase.  It is important to only add to the model when the changes fit within the agile model characteristics and they do not over complicate the design.

Published at DZone with permission of Todd Merritt, author and DZone MVB. (source)

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