Oral Documentation

Dec 9th, 2002 by Tony in Questioning XP

Oral documentation means that XP does not really support the idea of handing an application off to the maintenance team. While personally I think this is actually a step forward, it is contrary to the way that many organizations have their maintenance departments set up. To work around this, before disbanding an XP project team, it would be useful to have the maintenance team work with the project team on the last few iterations so that they get familiar with the code.

Alternatively the Customer must schedule some user stories that request maintenance documentation that explains the overall design before they disband the team. Otherwise the maintenance team will face several months of confusion as they try to understand the application. In a way this could be seen as a hidden cost of using XP – a continuous thread of active staff to maintain the oral knowledge about the code costs real money. Disbanding an XP team without getting the team members to document the internals of the application would be unwise, but this documentation would probably fall prey to many of the ills of traditional documentation and it is very unlikely that future maintenance programmers would trust it.

— Pete McBreen, Questioning Extreme Programming, Chapter 17

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