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While searching for programmer opportunities, I have come across the term "greenfield project" in many job descriptions.

For example, a job ad may say something like:

This is a greenfield project utilizing some of the most exciting technologies on the market today. This is your chance to leave your mark and help us deliver a game changing system [...]

What does it mean to be a greenfield project with respect to IT?

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@DJClayworth - as Oded noted the term is not IT-centric. There are may types of Greenfield Projects in different industries. I do not think this is a bad question for the site. –  Chad Dec 11 '13 at 15:12
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It's not necessarily a bad question. But it "does not show any research effort". Whenever anyone asks for definitions, it's pretty easy to search using your favorite search engine first, then come here for more details if that doesn't meet your needs. –  Joe Strazzere Dec 11 '13 at 15:57
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(edited) If you feel the need to discuss this question, post a question in The Workplace Meta. This is on topic because it is a question trying to understand a term in a job posting. We are striving to become the go to place for people with workplace and job hunting questions. Attacking users because their questions do not pass your definition of a good question is out of line! –  Chad Dec 11 '13 at 20:07
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closed as off-topic by Pheonixblade9, jmac, ChrisF, Paul Brown, Lego Stormtroopr Dec 13 '13 at 0:20

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2 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

A greenfield project is simply a new project, not building on anything existing. The analogy is to building on a green field - there are no existing buildings or infrastructure.

This is opposed to brownfield projects - which would involve changes and maintenance to an existing piece of work.

The term is not unique to IT.

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Wikipedia defines it similarly: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenfield_project –  Joe Strazzere Dec 12 '13 at 14:22
    
For years, i thought it was some sort of environmental contamination designation, seriously! –  martin f Jan 1 at 23:35
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This obviously depends on the project and the company doing it - everybody has a different notion of 'free of constraints'.

Typical characteristics can be:

  • no prior project that one has to build on
  • no 'legacy' code or data to deal with
  • free choice of language, framework, infrastructure
  • free choice of programming or management techniques
  • no requirements from outside the team
  • complete freedom to determine scope with stakeholders
  • freedom to pick whoever you want in your team

You get the idea.

Every aspect one might feel constrained by could be removed - but it doesn't have to, necessarily. Greenfield projects are designed to provide a lot of freedom, but you best ask the company offering it, what you are and aren't free to do in such a project.

Examples:

  • New tools that have not been necessary before
  • StartUps
  • Prototypes
  • Software related to new areas of business a company wants to expand into
  • Research projects
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Good answer - but I would point out that while greenfield projects may afford free choice of language, framework, techniques, etc., if it's at the point where the company is hiring developers to work on the project, there's a good chance that those choices have already been made. –  Carson63000 Dec 12 '13 at 2:01
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Yes, that may be true. –  CMW Dec 12 '13 at 9:54
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