Spikes: supporting agile practice

man rock climbing
Header photo by Jonathan Ouimet on Unsplash

The second supporting agile/XP practice that I want to explore is ‘spike solutions’ or simply ‘spikes’.

What is a spike?

The name ‘spike’ comes from rock climbing. A piton (sometimes called a pin or peg) is a metal spike or wedge that is hammered into a crack in the rock to act as an anchor to secure the rope. This protects the climber from the consequences of a fall and to assist progress. The spike itself doesn’t move the climber closer to the top but it helps provide a safe path to do so.

Similarly, in software development, spikes help developers determine a safe path forward when knowledge is lacking about how to do something.

A software spike is a technical investigation—a small experiment to research the answer to a specific problem about how to do something.

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