Experiences with software technology development projects at ABB Inc. indicated a need for additional flexibility and speed during explorations of applying new technologies to future products. A case study was conducted at ABB to compare and contrast the use of an evolutionary-agile approach with a more traditional incremental approach in two different technology development projects. The study indicated benefits associated with the evolutionary approach with agile practices, such as streamlined documentation, increased customer involvement, enhanced customer satisfaction, increased capability to include emergent requirements, and increased risk management ability. This paper suggests that using agile practices during the Research and Development (R&D) phase of new product development contributes to improving productivity, to increasing value-added activities, to showing progress early in the development project, and to enhancing customer satisfaction. Another observation derived from this study is that by offering a carefully selected subset of agile practices, ABB R&D groups are more likely to successfully incorporate them into their existing processes.

ABB Inc. is a multi-national corporation that develops products, largely software-intensive, for the power and automation technology market segments. Before a decision is made to begin a new project, a feasibility study is carried out to ensure that a resulting product is likely to have good economic potential [1]. After a working prototype is developed at the Corporate Research Center (CRC) lab, this prototype is turned into a product, or “productized,” by the Business Unit (BU). To ensure maximum efficiency, suitable lifecycles and processes need to be applied during the various development phases. The ABB Software Process Initiative (ASPI) group, an international team of in-house product development process engineers, acts as the internal ABB Corporate Engineering Process Group (CEPG) and helps BUs choose the most efficient product development processes to optimize time, quality, and functionality . The ASPI group has deployed research and development techniques to improve speed and flexibility in software-intensive product development. Early in the year 2001, a two-stage Incremental Development Model (IDM) was created, tailored, and deployed by the ASPI group. After several technology development projects were carried out using this model, a need for further flexibility and speed sparked the creation of a more flexible and more agile Evolutionary Development Model (EDM) . This paper reports on a case study that compares the incremental and the evolutionary models applied to two technology development projects at ABB. The projects were of similar size and comparable complexity. The estimated development time was under one calendar year for each project. The same team of five people developed both prototype-working systems (which served as the basis for the final products) in parallel.

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