Agile Software Development for Managers – Point of View
by Tim Parsons, Director of Product Innovation at Mi9
In the Academy Award-winning 2010 caper Inception, a crew of technicians enter each other’s dreams in a dramatic quest to plant an entirely original idea in the mind of an industry scion, that they hope will change the world.
Inception is an example of a group of people adapting in real-time to circumstances, each person bringing all their abilities, imagination and drive to the problem: no passengers. Inspiring, thrilling stuff.
Now think of your development team: developers, data folks and designers. Do you see them operating like the crew in inception ? Or more like their polar opposite: passive drones who look + feel like they’re lost within a huge corporate structure, projects grinding on through massive requirements documents towards unsatisfactory and under-performing end-products. If your answer is, truthfully, yes, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself, how your org is doing things – and consider the Agile development approach.
Agile Development – plus its parent Lean, and flavours Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP) – are methods to make it easier for a group of people working together to collaborate and make decisions, and deliver working products. Sounds pretty good right ?
Crib notes: the ‘agility’ part comes because the Agile process is based on short-cycle ‘time-boxed’ iterations which incrementally lead up to product releases. The approach values people interactions over documentation, process adaptability over fixed requirements: being iterative means it can adapt to changing requirements. (Yep, in the real world, business requirements are constantly changing!) Lean Development – originally a ‘just-in-time’, order only-what-you-need philosophy pioneered by Toyota – has evolved to become “build minimum viable product (MVP) -> test on audience -> adjust and extend MVP -> repeat test-cycle” – discipline to capture changing audience requirements via open prototyping. XP is a software-specific version of Agile which adds in transparent collaboration, keyboard-sharing co-work, unit-testing and planning . Scrum is a more general form of Agile which can be used for any kind of project.
Agile Dev is not easy
You need to have solid, respectful, supporting relationships between stakeholders and teams, and lots of new ways of working together to make it deliver. Unlearning old habits is very hard, especially if you’ve been used to working alone, or in a more waterfall manner. Also, if your office environment is already toxic, then you’ve got lots of culture work to do: a key principle in Agile is visibility/transparency, which is hard to achieve if there’s a culture of blame. Finally, Agile is also not complete – you need to adapt it and add in doses of Lean, XP and Scrum to make it work.
Agile improves project success rate
But it’s worth it. According to respected US software performance think-tank The Standish Group , over 29% of projects run using ‘traditional’ waterfall methods are a failure, and only 14% truly succeed. In contrast, for Agile, only 9% are failing and more like 42% are unequivocal successes. Makes you think.
Agile Business Forum in August…book now
For a more in-depth consideration of how agile is impacting on business models, please email claudia (at) digital-nation.com.au for the full length article. This topic will also be discussed in a half day forum with Tim, and other agency/client practitioners – Sydney on 13th August and Melbourne on 16th August.
Saito: You remind me of someone… a man I met in a half-remembered dream. He was possessed of some radical notions. (Inception, 2010)
 Source: The CHAOS Manifesto, The Standish Group, 2012