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

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

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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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