Concept: Tailoring a Process for a Small Project
This guideline discusses how to tailor RUP for a small project.
Main Description


The key to achieving the delicate balance between delivering quality software and delivering it quickly (the software paradox!) is to understand the essential elements of the process and to follow certain guidelines for tailoring the process to best fit your project's specific needs. This should be done while adhering to the best practices that have been proven throughout the industry to help software development projects be successful.

Definition of "Small Project"

Small can refer to the number of people on the project, the length of the project, or the amount of software being developed. For the purposes of this roadmap, a "Small Project" is defined as a project with:

  • 3 to 10 people
  • project duration less than one year.

Characteristics of a Small Project Process

A key characteristic of most small projects is a lower level of formality. Although there are exceptions, the larger the number of people on the project and the larger and more complex the product, the greater the need for formal process. For example, if your project has a geographically distributed team of 100 people, or is working simultaneously on multiple related products with multiple customers and subcontractors, you require much more formal process than a typical five-person team. Similarly, a missile guidance system requires more formal artifacts than an inventory system upgrade.

So why have a process at all? A process enables successful practices to be repeated, and unsuccessful practices to be dropped or improved. RUP in particular provides:

  • guidance on best practices
  • a set of tasks, roles, and work products your process may need to consider - with guidance on when these are needed
  • lots of good detailed information that help you effectively apply the techniques that you decide are appropriate for your project. For example, if you are doing a UML design model, you find out what diagrams are appropriate and how to structure the model. Further, if you use Rational tools, there's additional guidance on how to use them effectively as part of the overall process.
  • guidance on how to tailor the process to address specific process-related problems. For example, if your project has a lot of changing requirements, you may benefit from the guidance on how to effectively manage requirements.

Many of the same RUP activities and artifacts are needed on both small and large projects - the differences are more in terms of workproduct formats and the level of formality, detail, and effort applied to each task. For the purposes of this roadmap, a "small project process" will focus on projects which require little formality. Some characteristics of this small project process are as follows.

  • The number of documents tends to be smaller, and less detailed. Instead of detailed Risk Management Plans and Product Acceptance Plans, small projects may devote a couple of paragraphs to these topics as part of the overall Software Development Plan. The Test Plan for each iteration may be a few paragraphs in the Iteration Plan.
  • Small projects often start off with a minimum of software development tools. As a project grows and succeeds (which is the objective of all successful small projects!), it will be important to include effective tools to help automate your team's implementation of the process.
  • Formal reviews may be replaced with informal meetings and discussions.
  • Many of the artifacts may be captured informally. A risk list may be created on a whiteboard, and status assessments may be a few paragraphs in an email.

How to Get Started

To define a process for your small project, you should first review the following RUP basics:

Then evaluate any existing process you may be following against these essentials, and focus revisions on any weak areas. Many projects choose to incrementally adopt new tools and process, and initially use only small parts of RUP.

Using the Rational Method Composer (RMC), you can select and deselect RUP content packages to perform a coarse tailoring of the process, and then do a finer tuning with process views, including adding your own project-specific guidelines. Note that RMC includes a Small Project method configuration. This is a smaller configuration of the RUP that includes "informal" templates and excludes guidance applicable to larger or more formal projects. Small projects should start with this template and apply their own project-specific tailoring.  For more information on tailoring the RUP, see Concept: Tailoring RUP

The Example: A Small Project Adopts RUP, gives an example for how a small project might approach defining a process. Detailed guidance for defining and documenting a software development process for a project is provided by Task: Tailor the Development Process for the Project .

Additional Process Tailoring

Smaller projects in particular may wish to adopt practices and techniques associated with "Agile Processes". This is discussed in Concept: Agile Practices in RUP and in Whitepaper: Using the RUP for Small Projects: Expanding upon eXtreme Programming.