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In agile principles, timeboxing allocates a maximum unit of time to an activity, called a timebox, within which a planned activity takes place. It is used by agile principles-based project management approaches and for personal time management.


In project management

Timeboxing is used as a project planning technique. The schedule is divided into a number of separate time periods (timeboxes), with each part having its own deliverables, deadline and budget.[ citation needed ] Sometimes referred to as schedule as independent variable (SAIV). [1] "Timeboxing works best in multistage projects or tasks that take little time and you can fit them in the same time slot. It is also worth implementing in case of duties that have foreseeable time-frames of completion." [2]

As an alternative to fixing scope

In project management, there are generally considered to be three constraints: time (sometimes schedule), cost (sometimes budget), and scope. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] (Quality is often added as a fourth constraint---represented as the middle of a triangle. [8] [9] [10] ) The assumption is that a change in one constraint will affect the others. [6]

Without timeboxing, projects usually work to a fixed scope, [11] in which case when it becomes clear that some deliverables cannot be completed within the planned timescales, either the deadline has to be extended (to allow more time to complete the fixed scope) or more people are involved (to complete the fixed scope in the same time). Often both happen, resulting in delayed delivery, increased costs, and often reduced quality (as per The Mythical Man-Month principle).

With timeboxing, the deadline is fixed, meaning that the scope would have to be reduced. As this means organizations have to focus on completing the most important deliverables first, timeboxing often goes hand-in-hand with a scheme for prioritizing of deliverables (such as with the MoSCoW method). [12]

To manage risk

Timeboxes are used as a form of risk management, to explicitly identify uncertain task/time relationships, i.e., work that may easily extend past its deadline. Time constraints are often a primary driver in planning and should not be changed without considering project or sub-project critical paths. That is, it's usually important to meet deadlines. Risk factors for missed deadlines can include complications upstream of the project, planning errors within the project, team-related issues, or faulty execution of the plan. Upstream issues might include changes in project mission or backing/support from management. A common planning error is inadequate task breakdown, which can lead to underestimation of the time required to perform the work. Team-related issues can include trouble with inter-team communication; lack of experience or required cross-functionality; lack of commitment/drive/motivation (i.e. poor team building and management).

To stay on deadline, the following actions against the triple constraints are commonly evaluated:

Adoption in software development

Many successful software development projects use timeboxing, especially smaller ones. [13] Adopting timeboxing more than tripled developer productivity at DuPont in the '80s. [14] In some cases, applications were completely delivered within the time estimated to complete just a specification. [14] However, Steve McConnell argues that not every product is suitable [14] and that timeboxing should only be used after the customer agrees to cut features, not quality. [14] There is little evidence for strong adoption amongst the largest class of projects. [13]

Timeboxing has been adopted by some notable software development methodologies:

Agile software development advocates moving from plan driven to value driven development. Quality and time are fixed but flexibility allowed in scope. Delivering the most important features first leads to an earlier return on investment than the waterfall model. [7]

A lack of detailed specifications typically is the result of a lack of time, or the lack of knowledge of the desired end result (solution). In many types of projects, and especially in software engineering, analyzing and defining all requirements and specifications before the start of the realization phase is impossible. Timeboxing can be a favorable type of contracting for projects in which the deadline is the most critical aspect and when not all requirements are completely specified up front. This also allows for new feedback or insights discovered during the project to be reflected in the end result. [12]

In personal time management

Timeboxing can be used for personal tasks, in which case it uses a reduced scale of time (e.g., thirty minutes) and of deliverables (e.g., a household chore instead of project deliverable), and is often called timeblocking.

Personal timeboxing is also said to act as a life hack to help curb perfectionist tendencies (by setting a firm time and not overcommitting to a task) which can also enhance creativity and focus (by creating a sense of urgency or increased pressure). [21]

Relationship with other methods

Timeboxing acts as a building block in other personal time management methods:

See also

Related Research Articles

Project management is the process of leading the work of a team to achieve all project goals within the given constraints. This information is usually described in project documentation, created at the beginning of the development process. The primary constraints are scope, time, and budget. The secondary challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and apply them to meet pre-defined objectives.

The rational unified process (RUP) is an iterative software development process framework created by the Rational Software Corporation, a division of IBM since 2003. RUP is not a single concrete prescriptive process, but rather an adaptable process framework, intended to be tailored by the development organizations and software project teams that will select the elements of the process that are appropriate for their needs. RUP is a specific implementation of the Unified Process.

Rapid application development (RAD), also called rapid application building (RAB), is both a general term for adaptive software development approaches, and the name for James Martin's method of rapid development. In general, RAD approaches to software development put less emphasis on planning and more emphasis on an adaptive process. Prototypes are often used in addition to or sometimes even instead of design specifications.

In software development, agile practices include requirements discovery and solutions improvement through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams with their customer(s)/end user(s), Popularized in the 2001 Manifesto for Agile Software Development, these values and principles were derived from and underpin a broad range of software development frameworks, including Scrum and Kanban.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dynamic systems development method</span>

Dynamic systems development method (DSDM) is an agile project delivery framework, initially used as a software development method. First released in 1994, DSDM originally sought to provide some discipline to the rapid application development (RAD) method. In later versions the DSDM Agile Project Framework was revised and became a generic approach to project management and solution delivery rather than being focused specifically on software development and code creation and could be used for non-IT projects. The DSDM Agile Project Framework covers a wide range of activities across the whole project lifecycle and includes strong foundations and governance, which set it apart from some other Agile methods. The DSDM Agile Project Framework is an iterative and incremental approach that embraces principles of Agile development, including continuous user/customer involvement.

The MoSCoW method is a prioritization technique used in management, business analysis, project management, and software development to reach a common understanding with stakeholders on the importance they place on the delivery of each requirement; it is also known as MoSCoW prioritization or MoSCoW analysis.

Lean software development is a translation of lean manufacturing principles and practices to the software development domain. Adapted from the Toyota Production System, it is emerging with the support of a pro-lean subculture within the agile community. Lean offers a solid conceptual framework, values and principles, as well as good practices, derived from experience, that support agile organizations.

Adaptive software development (ASD) is a software development process that grew out of the work by Jim Highsmith and Sam Bayer on rapid application development (RAD). It embodies the principle that continuous adaptation of the process to the work at hand is the normal state of affairs.

In systems engineering and requirements engineering, a non-functional requirement (NFR) is a requirement that specifies criteria that can be used to judge the operation of a system, rather than specific behaviours. They are contrasted with functional requirements that define specific behavior or functions. The plan for implementing functional requirements is detailed in the system design. The plan for implementing non-functional requirements is detailed in the system architecture, because they are usually architecturally significant requirements.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scrum (software development)</span> Software development framework

Scrum is an agile project management system commonly used in software development and other industries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Unified Process</span> Object oriented software development process framework

The unified software development process or unified process is an iterative and incremental software development process framework. The best-known and extensively documented refinement of the unified process is the rational unified process (RUP). Other examples are OpenUP and agile unified process.

Agile testing is a software testing practice that follows the principles of agile software development. Agile testing involves all members of a cross-functional agile team, with special expertise contributed by testers, to ensure delivering the business value desired by the customer at frequent intervals, working at a sustainable pace. Specification by example is used to capture examples of desired and undesired behavior and guide coding.

A glossary of terms relating to project management and consulting.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Project management triangle</span> Model of the constraints of project management

The project management triangle is a model of the constraints of project management. While its origins are unclear, it has been used since at least the 1950s. It contends that:

  1. The quality of work is constrained by the project's budget, deadlines and scope (features).
  2. The project manager can trade between constraints.
  3. Changes in one constraint necessitate changes in others to compensate or quality will suffer.

In software engineering, a software development process is a process of planning and managing software development. It typically involves dividing software development work into smaller, parallel, or sequential steps or sub-processes to improve design and/or product management. It is also known as a software development life cycle (SDLC). The methodology may include the pre-definition of specific deliverables and artifacts that are created and completed by a project team to develop or maintain an application.

Continuous testing is the process of executing automated tests as part of the software delivery pipeline to obtain immediate feedback on the business risks associated with a software release candidate. Continuous testing was originally proposed as a way of reducing waiting time for feedback to developers by introducing development environment-triggered tests as well as more traditional developer/tester-triggered tests.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to project management:

Specification by example (SBE) is a collaborative approach to defining requirements and business-oriented functional tests for software products based on capturing and illustrating requirements using realistic examples instead of abstract statements. It is applied in the context of agile software development methods, in particular behavior-driven development. This approach is particularly successful for managing requirements and functional tests on large-scale projects of significant domain and organisational complexity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Extreme programming</span> Software development methodology

Extreme programming (XP) is a software development methodology intended to improve software quality and responsiveness to changing customer requirements. As a type of agile software development, it advocates frequent releases in short development cycles, intended to improve productivity and introduce checkpoints at which new customer requirements can be adopted.

The scaled agile framework (SAFe) is a set of organization and workflow patterns intended to guide enterprises in scaling lean and agile practices. Along with disciplined agile delivery (DAD), SAFe is one of a growing number of frameworks that seek to address the problems encountered when scaling beyond a single team.


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