Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Is the industry moving away from Agile?

I don't think so.

I'm writing this in response to a link to this article on slashdot that a friend sent me asking the question which I've used as the title for this post. (The slashdot article references this blog post which is a good and informative read in itself and I found I agreed with many of his points. What starts as an emotional rant turns into a very well presented article.)

There isn't just one way of doing development or just one way of doing agile; hence the name agile. I thought the first poster on slashdot hit it on the head especially with his comments about having the right people and making adaptations to your business.

The author leads into the article complaining about agile but later talks about how many other methodologies can also be successful. The important thing in my mind is picking the right approach for the job (or team even; some methodologies only work with a certain type of people) and also understanding that methodology properly. In fact, the understanding must come first to be sure that you do pick the right approach for your team/project.

The author made a good point about how some people use the words "agile" and "scrum" interchangeably. It is my opinion that these are the teams that fail at agile. It could be that some see agile as being less structured and as a result end up thinking there are fewer rules and less accountability. An agile approach may give the developers more leeway and freedom but with that comes more responsibility. My experience has shown that a junior team usually cannot succeed in these circumstances. They typically will not have the experience required to make the design and implementation decisions that are usually made by someone else in a different model. It's been a challenge to overcome with some of our teams.

We use SCRUM outwardly but also take the XP approach mentioned by Kent Beck in "Extreme Programming Explained" and implement changes slowly. We reflect each week in our sprint retrospective on how those changes helped/hindered us and we also talk about new ideas and ways to improve our process. Yes, we follow a scrum model but one that we have adapted to our needs. We also know that it is more than just doing this list of things and then we'll have it right. We know that the business needs change, the business itself changes and that we need to be able to change and adapt in order to keep pace. I feel that with the right mix of people and support from management agile can be very effective.

Although we don't do game development where I work, I had previously found this pdf about lessons learned implementing SCRUM at Bioware and one of the key things I took from that was that they also ended up adapting SCRUM to their own needs. I think this is key to success with any methodology; being able to take what works and adapt where you need to.


  1. Yes they seem to have taken it down. I've "fixed" the link to point to a different copy.

  2. Thanks, reminds me a bit of this approach to changing Agile to fit their environment: http://www.justin.tv/startuplessonslearned/b/262659233

  3. Thanks for the link. It was very interesting. It's always interesting to see how others are using agile and what does or does not work for them. I like the idea of a technical debt tax applied to projects that need refactoring. Changes cannot be made to a given piece without also paying some of the technical debt due.