Agile Development in Training

Many firms are giving Agile Development a go, and it’s easy to understand the corporate motivation. Get to market faster with the highest value projects. In our company we’re in the 2009 planning cycle and struggling with the prioritization process and a crushing number of initiatives. All projects are scored for value to the firm and a level of effort is assigned by the IT department. As you would expect the highest value projects take the longest. And there are many more on the spreadsheet than we have resource for. So the direction from the top was to go back and see if the highest value/large projects can be scaled back to a small or medium and preserve most of the value. That way we deliver more to the company sooner. Makes total sense

The challenge is getting everyone on board to go back, open up the proposals and do the hard work to throw requirements overboard. Oh yeah, only throw out the appropriate requirements. We aren’t as skilled as we need to be to pull this one off. It seems what the top guy needs is agile development.

The Waterfall Process
The Waterfall Process

We all know the waterfall project development process can’t live in our fast paced world and doesn’t perform in practice because most of the players don’t spend the necessary time thinking and planning. The idea that you can completely polish off one stage and enter the next without going back is unrealistic. The result. It takes too long and no one is really happy with the outcome, especially IT who now has to maintain it.

Agile allows the various disciplines to focus and control their areas of expertise, while interfacing with everyone else. Coding begins immediately and is delivered to the team for review many times during the project. Small changes are made quickly vs. the entire code base having to be scrapped. In the waterfall world you have no choice but to ship it. That means you’re the proud owner of home built on a sacred burial ground; forever doomed. In agile you only toss out small bits of code and keep the project moving. You are never forced to ship the first pass.

In the Cooper Journal email I received today, Alan Cooper, a brilliant programmer and user experience guru, bills his firm as providing Product Design for a Digital World. We’ve used them for persona creation and their work is top drawer. In the email there was a link to Mr. Cooper’s keynote address recently given at the Agile 2008 Conference. It was a fascinating and thought provoking perspective on agile development, how it should be done, and how it differs from the waterfall process. This one slide really caught my eye as a thinking tool.

Approaching Agile Development
Approaching Agile Development

He continues to deconstruct AG, laying out the various states of mind and stages (agile and fragile). But he goes far beyond technology and process, delving deep into human psychology to explain the various roles necessary to make agile successful and why. It’s the people, their emotions, motivations and desires that drives success out of AG. Overlapping those skills in a rapid cycle environment makes a difference.

I could never refactor his keynote, so I won’t even try. See for yourself, view the keynote slides and Mr. Cooper’s speaker notes here. He has entitled the address The Wisdom of Experience. It truly is. Enjoy.

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