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Agile is Dead – Again

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Matthew (Ford) Kern and Miko have both recently written posts on the topic “Agile is Dead”.   Matthew relates this to the saturation of agile consulting and the speed of hype cycles.  Miko links it to a need to go faster than the approaches embodied in the agile movement and replace agile with DevOps.

Matthew’s first article is simply titled “Agile is Dead” He deliberately takes a controversial (and sarcastic) stance, saying that

Agile Software Development work is dead.  If you practice that, you are a doorstop.  If you manage that way, you are a boat-anchor.  The wave has ended, it is over, and if you went for the head-fake and bought certifications, you wasted some money.

He goes on to explain the “death” in terms of the hype cycle of marketing and management fads and feels that

The meaning (of the brand name "Agile) was lost, the technical merit was diluted, and those looking for technical excellence abandoned the effort, and if not for the efforts of “true believers" it might be history already.

He states that the demise was inevitable and gives a lengthy list of reasons why this is the case, including:

  • Agile had a sweet-spot, and a range of inapplicability, but everyone wanted to ignore that.
  • I knew it was being hype-marketed, and the facts were secondary.
  • There was a sacred mythology, strange terminology, special sacred tools and other weird cult behavior.  (For example many Agile practitioners are bullies, and want to browbeat you into agreeing with them.  They will attack you or undermine your credibility when you disagree.  I was just threatened yesterday 4/28 by one young acolyte.)
  • I saw everyone hammering it to fit with much more important corporate controls.  Clearly we had suboptimization with development thinking they were the most important part of the ecosystem.  In most enterprises they are a minor support function, not the core business, and should be accommodating more important business functions.

He continues to identify elements which he feels can be saved, including iterations, teams, some of the social practices, many of the technical practices.

He concludes with his ideas for what will replace agile in the marketplace, the DevOps wave:

So next comes the DevOps wave.  It is the "heir apparent". If you buy software development services at a medium or large scale then someone will be in your office selling you DevOps this year.  (When they do, they will say it is better than mere Agile.  You have to buy it.)  There is still a chance to fix this one:

There are also various modified forms of Agile resulting from practical experience and improvement.  Maybe someone will make a real marketing effort with one of those.

Miko identifies Continuous Delivery as the successor to agile in the market.

The paradigm of “Continuous Delivery (CD)” seems to be the logical successor to Agile. Continuous Delivery provides an umbrella term that does not specify methodology–and doesn’t require much of a manifesto. Everything you need to know is in the title–you just deliver shippable software in as continuous of a way as possible. This allows a team to pull whichever Agile principles and methods needed in order to achieve that goal. This addresses one of the complaints of Agile, which is that it became a religious movement with gurus–and that these highly paid Agile gurus would come with one-size-fits-all solutions for development teams which were hard to realistically fit to real-world development.

He maintains that we are now squarely in the age of DevOps.

Matthew has a second article which goes deeper into his reasoning and provides statistics and explores the marketplace for DevOps and Agile by looking at job opportunities and salaries. 

He concludes

Job data and salaries data show Agile may be at or near market saturation in the IT services sector.  DevOps market penetration is expected to increase rapidly in 2016.  Decline in Agile services may occur due to the ascendance of DevOps related services.  If the next wave is DevOps as assumed, the market currently requires one dominant methodology and tool experience, not ideology.

The demise of agile as an approach and its replacement with something new has been a subject of InfoQ interviews and articles over the last few years.  In 2014 Dave Thomas encouraged readers to adopt agility over agile and in 2015 he gave a talk titled “Agile is Dead”.  In 2012 Alex Bell identified “Agile Fever” as a deadly risk to organisations.

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