If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist

There are some who believe that the only way to develop software is to have specifications. It doesn’t matter if this is in a formal document in PDF or Work format, a Google Doc, a Wiki such as Confluence, or in Jira tickets. It also doesn’t matter if it’s as elevator pitch format, a list of acceptance criteria, a formal style or just a bullet list of rules that the code must follow. The point is that they will code to the letter of what is in writing, considering that if it’s not set in stone then it doesn’t matter.

Everything becomes a specification

The upshot of this is that you have a fair idea what the code will do before you build it. The downside is that anything that you don’t ask for is basically ‘unspecified’, which in software terms can be and often is wildly variable. It can have far reaching consequences, ranging from a lack of consistency in the UI to developers making assumptions on form field validation (we all know what is said about assumptions). It’s usually the small things but they can quickly mount up - the large features are always discussed at length or at the very least covered in the task description in a way to make it clear enough what is needed. It’s the things that aren’t needed or are expected to be as default, standard, or ‘best practice’ that are open to interpretation, and subsequently will be the points of contention later, post-implementation.

Tool-centric behaviour

Unsurprisingly, this mindset tends to lean heavily on documentation and task management tools, particularly with a focus on online collaboration features. Trello, Jira, Confluence, Google Docs, and to some degree online chat tools that keep a record (HipChat, Slack, Skype, Hangouts, etc) all are used to capture requirements. This isn’t for the sake of the conversation - this philosophy isn’t really concerned about the why, only the values that are needed. The important part is that X=3, without recording the rationale.

Can we ever have complete documentation?

As a result of recording the facts and figures but not the rationale, documentation is usually concise but not necessarily complete. It tends towards filling the perceived gaps during implementation - the definitions of the edges of the system such as validation rules and what is considered to be non-obvious logic. It may result in documentation needing to be done up front breaking agile processes. It can result in fragmentation of documentation, and in creating reference material that will never be reviewed or read. Without the ‘why’ it can be hard to understand the design decisions that have been made or even in some cases who made them.