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What IS Agile? A Useless Theoretical Question or Necessary Clarity for Success?

by Amr Elssamadisy on May 10, 2010 |

A quick search on your favorite browser looking for recent articles on 'agile software development' or its derivatives will return a surprisingly diverse set of ideas on what Agile is.  If you are experienced then you will easily read and discard what is not important and separate the good from the bad.  If you are not, you can be confused, or you can (randomly/ based on publication/ based on author) pick one of many definitions and go from there.  Is this good?  Is this bad?  Or is this reporter just filling white-space to get an article out on Monday, May 10th?

Here are some of the interesting things this reporter found:

Scott Ambler's essay on the Agile Software Development Lifecycle model looks like an Agile and Unified Process (UP) mix.  Scott is one of the big names in the community and works for IBM, so for someone new to Agile this would feel like a trustworthy document from a trustworthy source.  He starts off with the Scrum model diagram which we are all familiar and then goes to a more 'realistic' model which ends up morphing into a slightly modified version of the UP.  The UP is compatible with Agile, but should it be included in a document defining the "Agile Software Development Lifecycle"?

An article by Michael Hugos article on CIO magazine describes Agile Development.  According to this article, and others it links to, an iteration should consist of 2 days defining the solution, 7 days of designing the system, and 13 days of building the system (the 22 work days of a month).  Oh, and by the way, there are 5 easy questions to ask at a stand up meeting:

  1. Has the scope of any project task changed? (Yes/No)
  2. Will any major activity or milestone date be missed? (Yes/No)
  3. Does the project team need any outside skills/expertise? (Yes/No)
  4. Are there any unsolved technical problems? (Yes/No)
  5. Are there any unresolved user review/approval problems? (Yes/No) (For all questions marked Yes, explain the problem and recommend possible solutions.)

And, by the way, the one Forrester report that comes up has to do with tools.  So tools must be really important and IBM and MKS seem to lead the pack which probably means we should go to them for advice on Agile.

What is Agile and what is the Agile community anyway?  Chris Matt's seems to think it is a broken learning machine.  Unfortunately that doesn't show up in the search.  Do those new to Agile only use the search utilities?  Probably not, but these articles are from respected names such as CIO, IBM, and Forrester.

Ok, so is this reporter tilting at windmills? Maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe getting clear on what Agile is one more time - it has been almost ten years since the manifesto - might actually help.  Because if we don't get clarity, then it is time to move on and find a new term for our wonderful learning community and leave Agile software development to those who are defining it today.

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How to define Agile? by Udayan Banerjee

Is there a clear definition of what Agile is? I do not think so - I have looked for and have not found any!

setandbma.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/what-is-the-...

Agile has become little more than a buzzword by Charles McKnight

When firms like Accenture, et al., starting selling Agile as the front end for their big processes, you know Agile has died an undignified death. And it's happened. Just like the expression Object Oriented, or UML got taken over by hyperbole (style over substance), so has Agile succumbed to deadly onslaught of the big companies, too few people who actually understand/utilize the principles, and referring to projects as "agile" that are little more than outright hacking.

Alas, poor Agile, we knew thee well, but tis a far, far better place thou hast departed for.

But I digress...

The far side of the chasm by Dave Nicolette

Some say agile has died or failed or devolved into a meaningless buzzword. Here's another view: This is what success looks like. When an innovation crosses the chasm, it ceases to be an innovation. Some of its ideas and practices get folded into the preexisting background. Some, not all, and not all in the same way or to the same extent. The status quo changes, and that's the definition of success for the innovation; but the world doesn't transform into a pristine model of the innovation as it was envisioned by its creators.

Think back on other innovations in the IT field over the years. Do you see a pattern? I think I see one. IMHO this year is the right time to reconsider agile. What effect has the movement had? Where are we now? In what direction should we go next? If the word "agile" is worn out, do we need another word around which people can rally, if they are interested in continuing to pursue organizational improvement beyond the new status quo? Those who choose not to think through these issues may find themselves selling solutions to yesterday's problems.

Re: Agile has become little more than a buzzword by Chris Treber

What's "great" to, is what remains of agile in big companies which like to bathe in the positive light it casts on them, but don't want to deal with aspects intrinsic to the method. "Oh yes, we're doing it agile. We start coding right after you give me the final estimates and the finished requirements document".

Hello-ho, anybody at home? Agile does work, in a conducive environment, with the right people, right mind set, and by accepting that you can't have a final estimate at the beginning, and fixed priorities (you can't ever anyways, but agile is admitting that and set out to address these issues).

Re: Agile has become little more than a buzzword by Alan Borsato

I think the big companies are the most interested in the success of software methodologies / frameworks. Why would they let the romantic idea of Agile die?
The car industry didn't destroy the automobile idea. The big food companies didn't destroy the home food idea. Unlike, They help the idea to survive and to evolve in the real-world business.

My 2 cents.

The only value that will be left in the Agile Manifesto by Sebastian Kübeck

Agile is what your tool vendor tells you it is!

read more...
www.jroller.com/sebastianKuebeck/entry/the_othe...

Its ugly and messy, but... by Mark Levison

...as Dave said congratulations we've succeeded. Large organizations want part of the success (i.e. the business), others think that they know how to adapt it to fit their own needs. We can't wrest away their definition of Agile from them, we're unlikely to get Gartner and Forrester to see common sense, but that doesn't mean the battle isn't worth fighting. We can fight the nonsense on InfoQ, we can give our clients some guiding principles. Because of articles like the one's Amr describes I now spend up to two hours at the beginning of every class covering underlying, core principles so people will know when something is wrong.

Cheers
Mark Levison
Agile Pain Relief Consulting

Re: Agile has become little more than a buzzword by Frank Bolander

What's "great" to, is what remains of agile in big companies which like to bathe in the positive light it casts on them, but don't want to deal with aspects intrinsic to the method. "Oh yes, we're doing it agile. We start coding right after you give me the final estimates and the finished requirements document".

Hello-ho, anybody at home? Agile does work, in a conducive environment, with the right people, right mind set, and by accepting that you can't have a final estimate at the beginning, and fixed priorities (you can't ever anyways, but agile is admitting that and set out to address these issues).


+1. I'm on a project right now just like your statement.

I think the problem with agile is that it doesn't scale at a certain point. The apathy and inertia in larger corporate structures don't allow for true agile benefits and definitely amplify the weaker aspects of agile -- that's reality not the fluffy warm fuzzy mantras of the agile gurus. Let's not forget that most new projects go AGAINST management bonuses until they are consumed on the maintenance cost center line, so it's an uphill battle.

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