Another well-known process to have come out of the object-oriented community is the Rational Unified Process (sometimes just referred to as the Unified Process). The original idea was that like the UML unified modeling languages the UP could unify software processes. Since RUP appeared about the same time as the agile methods, there’s a lot of discussion about whether the two are compatible.

RUP is a very large collection of practices and is really a process framework rather than a process. Rather than give a single process for software development it seeks to provide a common set of practices for teams to choose from for an individual project. As a result a team’s first step using RUP should be to define their individual process, or as RUP calls it, a development case.

The key common aspects of RUP is that it is Use Case Driven (development is driven through user-visible features), iterative, and architecture centric (there’s a priority to building a architecture early on that will last the project through).

My experience with RUP is that it’s problem is its infinite variability. I’ve seen descriptions of RUP usage that range from rigid waterfall with ‘analysis iterations’ to picture perfect agile. It’s struck me that the desire of people to market the RUP as the single process led to a result where people can do just about anything and call it RUP – resulting in RUP being a meaningless phrase.

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