By Demian Entrekin
Agile has certainly made the rounds as the latest and greatest software development methodology. Scrum has followed right along as a manifestation of this process. They even have, as any good movement should, their own manifesto. It is called, of all things, the Agile Manifesto.
Depending on how you look at the world, agile is either radically different from previous software development methodologies, or it is quite similar to previous methodologies. Agile might be used along with Joint Application Development (JAD) or it might be used alongside a more formal process for defining requirements.
Either way, Agile necessitates a certain set of assumptions and capabilities, most important being the ability to re-factor when we get things wrong, which we always do. Agile is a fine example of an iterative method, where you acknowledge in advance that you will get things wrong, so hurry up and get started.
This is the point where agile begins to falter. I’m sure some of you will have your own views of where agile falters, but here is mine. Agile is a business process, not a software development process. In other words, if the business does not understand what it means to go to market with something that is already accepted as “wrong” and that we will “adjust” as we go, you are in for a very rude set of status meetings.
If the key decision makers on the business side of the business do not understand how to do their jobs in an Agile shop, you will have the illusion of chaos, which will lead to real chaos.
To be more clear: if the CEO and the CFO and the CMO and the VP Sales do not understand what agile implies and what it feels like, then you will most likely get blown up before you get very far. You will “get it wrong” and never get the chance to re-factor.
Agile requires a certain level of trust that comes from experience. This is true of any software process that is inherently iterative, but agile seems to need it more than others. Agile works great, for example, when the CEO, the CFO, the CMO are all the same person, and this person understands technology. Otherwise, tread carefully.
And keep your manifesto to yourself.
Demian is the CTO of Innotas. As founder and CEO, Entrekin oversaw marketing, product development, sales and services for the company. Today, he focuses on strategic product direction. Prior to Innotas, Entrekin co-founded Convoy Corporation and was Chief Architect of its initial products. In that role, Entrekin helped the company lead the middleware market with an annual growth rate of 670 percent and played an instrumental role in Convoy’s subsequent acquisition by New Era Networks in 1999. A recognized thought leader in Project Portfolio Management, Entrekin has published numerous papers on PPM and his blog (PPM Today) explores current issues related to successful PPM implementation. During his 18 year career, Demian has assumed leadership roles as a consultant and as an entrepreneur, delivering commercial and corporate database applications. Demian holds a B.A. in English from UCLA and an M.A. in English from San Francisco State University.