Five Hard Truths about Agile Development

October 27, 2015 Karthik Vijayakumar

There’s no denying the positive and disruptive impact of Agile software development practices. For nearly 15 years, the industry has worked to improve tooling and processes to meet the insatiable appetite customers and organizations have for quality software. It started as small teams within small organizations, then teams-of-teams, and now large enterprise-wide implementation – making Agile clearly mainstream and the predominant method for building and deploying software.

However, great efforts bring challenges – and it holds true with Agile. The following are five hard truths about Agile development and how to avoid pitfalls that can slow the realized benefits of this approach.

1)  Agile can become too prescriptive: although the notion of Agile is being nimble and fluid, many organizations find themselves strictly following the various recipes prescribed by coaches and internal Agile champions.

Don’t try to become “all-in Agile,” and forget to maintain the development dynamics that worked before.

2)  Adoption is slow: if anything, Agile is a cultural transformation that can cause discomfort and resistance.  Resulting in delaying the promised benefits to end-uses of better collaboration, faster feature delivery and releases that drive business value.

Don’t try to move too fast and adopt Agile with a broad-brush across the entire enterprise.  That approach can frustrate developers and cause management to re-consider Agile altogether.

3)  The story matters: as much as facts and figures matters, the success of Agile requires buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders. Concepts not presented properly across development, IT ops and business functions can create a cycle of “convincing” and proving one’s worth every step of the way.

Don’t become a distraction from the ultimate goal of developing and delivering better software faster.

4)  Predictability is fleeting: many businesses are metrics and numbers driven. Being able to plan and predict events and business conditions are inherently embedded in scores of organizations, from business and ISVs to education and government institutions.

Don’t get distracted by frequent and lightly articulated requirements and forget to focus on “what happens next.”

5)  Agile is no longer bottom’s up: Agile software development is pervasive and generally known to anyone associated with software delivery. The days of starting small projects under the radar are pretty much over. In fact, this can prove to produce more harm than good in the long-run.

Do start the pitch at the top so as not to alienate executives that can quickly setup roadblocks.

Agile software development has come a long way since the Agile Manifesto was created 14 years ago. Being flexible and learning from others is key to gaining value from the overall philosophy of being highly iterative, responsive and collaborative. It’s just important to understand that there are potential pitfalls with any approach, including Agile.

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