Real World Agility

Having worked under an Agile and Scrum process with a number of clients, it has become clear that, in the real world, Agile means different things to different Organisations. This leads to clients approaching Agile in different ways and getting different things out of the process. Some read it at a high level, pick what they like and pay lip service to the rest; others are more embracing in their approach.

Organisations I have worked with have often faced difficulties developing in an Agile way. The main issue is what I believe to be the major impediment to Agile usage - the, sometimes ideological, clash between existing working practices and Agile tends to disrupt the Agile process. For example, a development team may be reliant on an external team who are working in a waterfall mindset. This is where strong management is key in ensuring that other areas of the Organisation support the Agile team(s) in a timely fashion to avoid delays.

Some Agile and Scrum processes seem to work better than others when compared to other development frameworks. For example, although tools are available for task tracking (e.g. Jira), a task board on a whiteboard close to the development team works extremely well once the team gets used to their ownership of tasks and the board itself. However, some things take more getting used to - the User Stories for Agile projects that I have worked on are not always as complete as one might hope. This leads to confusion and difficulty when, for example, Sprint planning - the team is expected to commit to delivery of functionality that may not be sufficiently defined.

Overall, Agile can save development time and certainly gives a different and powerful slant on project 'ownership'. However, the best applications of Agile that I have seen take a pragmatic approach and only introduce the Agile processes that work alongside the Organisations existing methodologies. In these cases, it can be said that the Organisation is working Agile but with a small 'a'.

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