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InfoQ Homepage News Are Automated Agile Tools Tactile Enough?

Are Automated Agile Tools Tactile Enough?

Picture the scene, an image of all that is Agile. A developer picking a card from a task board and taking it to her desk. The tactile feedback of the card in her hand, the sense of ownership, when writing her name on the card, and the sensory feedback of placing it back on the board in the ‘In Progress’ column.

Take the other scenario, of the developer opening a browser, logging into the PM system, selecting a task, reading the story, changing the status with a deft click of the mouse et voilà, ownership is hers. As too is tactile deprivation.

Enter the science of Social Informatics:

Social Informatics (SI) refers to the body of research and study that examines social aspects of computerization, including the roles of information technology in social and organizational change, the uses of information technologies in social contexts, and the ways that the social organization of information technologies is influenced by social forces and social practices. - Rob Kling - Center for Social Informatics

While there are some tools that try to address this problem, through more tactile interfaces (such as drag and drop of story cards in Mingle) there remains a sensory barrier between the user and the system, which in some cases (for example accessibility) can have an alienating effect on the user. More fundamentally however, does the sytemisation of processes (including agile methdologies such as Scrum) actually make the team more productive, or does it simply distract the team from (literally) the task in hand?

Many believed that technological innovation was a major factor in productivity and assumed that investments in information technology would be reflected in national statistics when the cumulative capital stock of computer systems was large enough, they would result in improved productivity statistics. Some economists coined the term “productivity paradox”, after Nobel laureate economist Robert Solow (1987) wrote, “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” Solow’s assertion counters the common assumption that computerization would directly and dramatically improve productivity.

In Agile teams the focus is on people and the needs of the team, with the primary mechanism being through social feedback, however should we stop there? The popularity of nintendo’s latest games console has introduced a new form of human computer interaction to a wide, diverse and wanting audience. Should agile software developers and tool makers heed the lessons learned in the games console industry (as some have)? What balance should we have between reporting and traceability against fulfilling the basic tactile needs of human beings?

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