Posts Tagged ‘waterfall’

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Has Your Agile Ship Sailed?

December 8, 2010

Sorry agile purists.  In the real world, most development groups that are using agile techniques (a surprisingly small percentage vs. the industry hype) are not using a “pure” agile approach.  They are using a blend of agile and waterfall techniques to the tune of more than 10 to 1, according to a recent article on Application Development Trends.  The article discusses a European survey of this topic published by a tool vendor.  (Caveat Emptor – Remember if you choose to download and read the actual “study”, it is really a vendor marketing piece based on the survey results – not the actual survey).  I guess the assertion that “waterfall is dead” is as premature as that of the mainframe also being dead.

 Is anyone surprised?  Contrary to what we are constantly barraged with by the agile marketers shouting “Agile, agile!” there is no need to swallow the agile elephant whole.  If you are in an organization that is not using agile techniques, don’t be tempted to lunge headlong into adopting everything agile, just because think you are missing the boat.  Not so.  This article / survey show what other studies have recently shown – that organizations doing agile are not (yet) in the majority.  Another indicator is that the primary tools being used to manage agile projects are still Microsoft Excel and Project.  And many groups are just using ad-hoc tools or working manually.

 So you still have time.  Learn from the majority of the organizations surveyed and adopt agile practices a few at a time.  Target the areas where you have the most problems and try out some lightweight practices.  Find out what works for you, give it time to diffuse into your organization, and then move on to adding additional practices. 

 What you will find is that it is not usually about the tools or about the agile practices themselves.  Most of the challenges in agile adoption are about people and organizations.  This survey cites resource management, cultural issues, change management, perceived loss of control, and executive buy-in as major stumbling blocks.  A “tools first” approach will not solve these.  Nor will a process-only approach.  While you are adopting more lightweight techniques, also look at your people issues and assess whether those can be resolved.  Otherwise they will be the rocks upon which your agile ship will run aground.

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The Bite of Agile Dogma

January 22, 2010

An often heard complaint about heavily plan-driven development approaches is that they are too heavy, too rigid. This criticism is not unjustified. However, we need to be careful. There is a non-trivial number of “agilists” who are sounding like the waterfall autocrats of the past. You hear them passing judgment that you are not “really” doing agile because you are not adhering to the letter of the agile law as prescribed in some revered agile tome. You’re not doing continuous integration? All you people are not certified? You’re creating some documentation? Well then you’re not agile.

This is unfortunate as these folks are missing one of the greatest value of agile (or other lightweight) techniques – – they can be easily blended together, even with more traditional approaches, to give you an effective, customized process that will work well in your particular development culture. Your approach, however agile it is, must work in your specific environment and support the way your teams work.

Chuck Cobb writes a good article on this topic. Take a look.

–Bob Maksimchuk ( http://www.projectpragmatics.com)