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GuidesProduct developmentA guide to feature-driven development (FDD)

A guide to feature-driven development (FDD)

Last updated

11 January 2024


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Mary Mikhail

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Feature-driven development (FDD) is one of the most comprehensive modern software development methodologies.

Here are some of the most important things to know about FDD, including what it is, how it works, and why it’s one of the most beneficial options for many software development companies.

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What is feature-driven development?

Feature-driven development is an agile software development framework. It focuses on advancing the capabilities of specific features.

These features are often more basic than what average software users look for when choosing the most modern tech products or programs available. Even so, they form the basis of creating the best possible overall user experience.

Feature-driven development might focus on something as basic as creating a more efficient login process—a feature that helps improve a user’s overall experience. There may be other foundational elements that wouldn’t immediately come to mind for users who are thinking about the most fun and exciting features possible.

Why use feature-driven development?

FDD is a particularly useful process for ensuring that each step of your project is completed on time and that your final products meet customers’ expectations. Its focus on small steps helps developers ensure their projects are completed as accurately as possible and within a reasonable time frame.

How is FDD different from scrum?

FDD is similar to the scrum methodology because both types of software development focus on using small, incremental features to move from an initial idea to a final product.

However, these processes also have several distinct differences.

For example, FDD typically takes a much more structured approach to the development process than scrum, making each step more regulated and closely managed. Software created using FDD is often of a higher quality because this process involves closer communication between developers, customers, and other stakeholders throughout the process.

Strengths of feature-driven development

Feature-driven development is an excellent choice for many companies looking to build the strongest possible software for their customers.

Here are some of the most significant benefits of choosing FDD:

Focused scope

FDD’s natural focus on small features helps developers stay focused on a narrow topic, boosting the efficiency of their work and the effectiveness of the software they go on to create. It can also help developers avoid scope creep.

Meanwhile, preventing project visions and requirements from increasing beyond what you can reasonably deliver is key to getting the most out of the resources used to develop each feature.

Improved communication

Communication and collaboration are crucial for developing quality software that includes effective features at every level.

FDD focuses heavily on ensuring that everyone involved in a particular project is working toward common goals. This focus on collaboration facilitates information sharing among everyone involved and keeps everyone on the same page. The benefit of this is reduced resource wastage.

Meanwhile, improved communication can significantly reduce the time needed to complete each project while increasing quality.

Early and frequent delivery

Software created through feature-driven development tends to be highly capable of meeting customers’ needs. This is because they have more input throughout the creation process.

Customers typically receive an early draft of features created using FDD. They can then provide feedback about what they are looking for and what they would like to see changed throughout the development process.

Early initial delivery and visibility into each draft allow customers to get as close to exactly what they want as possible, increasing customer satisfaction and the likelihood that they will become repeat customers.

Better project management

FDD also improves your team’s overall project management skills because it naturally incorporates many of the strategies that encompass effective project management.

Short development cycles, iterative development, and other project management best practices keep your development projects on track and ensure they meet your goals and objectives at the highest level.

By improving these skills through FDD, your team will likely perform better in similar areas as part of your overall project management strategy.

Increased flexibility

FDD is a highly flexible and responsive software development strategy. It’s designed to be particularly capable of adapting to changing needs quickly. This is an especially helpful attribute when it comes to making sure your software can keep up with the changing expectations of your most tech-savvy customers.

With this higher level of flexibility, over time, your business can better meet customers’ needs with every feature type and evolving expectation.

Weaknesses of feature-driven development

Although feature-driven development is a top choice among many software development companies, this option also has several drawbacks to be aware of.

Below are some of the most significant drawbacks of FDD to consider before deciding to implement this framework:

The process is complex

FDD is a very complex alternative to other methods and may not be the most appropriate option for less-experienced developers.

Team members who are new to your company or to software development as a whole may require more time to thoroughly understand the process they need to follow to properly deliver a working feature. Not every development company is prepared to incorporate extensive training in this area.

Requires significant time and resources

FDD’s complex development cycles can help provide the exact feature results you want, but planning and programming them can take lots of time and resources. For this reason, carefully consider whether FDD fits into your company’s budget and whether you have a sufficient number of team members to manage it effectively over time.

Deciding to implement FDD too quickly may ultimately impact your business negatively if you find it’s not a sustainable long-term option. This may affect your relationship with customers who are relying on the results promised.

Limited visibility

Focusing on small, incremental features is generally considered a good thing when aiming for accuracy. On the other hand, it can make it difficult to see the bigger picture and effectively track whether you are progressing toward the final product.

Limited control

Focusing on tiny steps can make it difficult for developers to control how the final product turns out. While these small steps should—in theory—be the best path toward creating accurate and consistent software, this is only true if each step is as precise as possible.

You might not have the capacity to ensure that every step is written as accurately as possible and implemented correctly across teams. This could negatively impact how well the finished product functions as a whole and meets your customers’ needs.

Dependencies between features

Many of the features you create using FDD depend on one another to function correctly, meaning that even a seemingly minor problem with one of your features can become a much larger issue. This can make it more difficult to isolate and fix the source of bugs or other technical problems.

Stages of feature-driven development

Feature-driven development is a five-step process that walks developers from creating a domain model to being ready to build each specific feature. Here are the five stages:

  1. Defining your domain model (the specific business problem you want your software to solve)

  2. Building a list of specific features that are important to your client

  3. Making plans for developing each feature

  4. Designing each feature

  5. Building each feature according to the decisions made during your planning process

Feature-driven development best practices

Reaping the benefits from your FDD projects involves fine-tuning your skills along the way and staying on top of changing expectations.

Below are some best practices to follow:

  • Using domain object modeling to design each feature to help determine its structure

  • Conducting frequent reviews to ensure your coding and overall design are cohesive at a high level

  • Developing by an effective feature size and breaking down features into smaller features when feasible

  • Deploying regular builds to keep every aspect of your systems up to date so that developers are always working with the latest code base and you have the latest code available to demonstrate to customers

  • Making sure your project progress and results are as visible as possible and communicated frequently


What are the six primary roles in feature-driven development?

An FDD team includes the following six main members who handle most of the work:

  1. Project manager

  2. Chief architect

  3. Development manager

  4. Chief programmer

  5. Class owner

  6. Domain expert

What do FDD and TDD mean in agile?

TDD stands for test-driven development. It’s a similar concept to feature-driven development.

TDD focuses on running frequent testing throughout every stage of the development process to search for issues that need fixing and determine how well your overall program and its features are working.

What is the difference between FDD and BDD?

Behavior-driven development (BDD) focuses heavily on how features behave, which may not always determine whether they create the desired user experience. FDD combines elements of BDD with aspects of TDD along with other development practices to create a comprehensive development process.

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