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Techniques

Hypothesis-driven legacy renovation

Published: Apr 13, 2021
Apr 2021
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We're often asked to refresh, update or remediate legacy systems that we didn't originally build. Sometimes, technical issues need our attention such as improving performance or reliability. One common approach to address these issues is to create "technical stories" using the same format as a user story but with a technical outcome rather than a business one. But these technical tasks are often difficult to estimate, take longer than anticipated or don't end up having the desired outcome. An alternative, more successful method is to apply hypothesis-driven legacy renovation. Rather than working toward a standard backlog, the team takes ownership of a measurable technical outcome and collectively establishes a set of hypotheses about the problem. They then conduct iterative, time-boxed experiments to verify or disprove each hypothesis in order of priority. The resulting workflow is optimized for reducing uncertainty rather than following a plan toward a predictable outcome.