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The Agile Cult Expand / Collapse
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Posted Monday, September 22, 2008 10:28 PM


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Comments posted to this topic are about the item The Agile Cult






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Post #574017
Posted Monday, September 22, 2008 10:50 PM


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I certainly agree that each group needs to try new methods of building software to see what works for them. While Agile is a buzz-word these days, it really does provide some benefits. There are various forms of Agile (XP, Scrum, etc.) and where I work, ChannelAdvisor, we have been doing a modified form of Scrum for just over a year. I have not worked here the entire time but from talking to those who have, it really has turned things around. But as I said, it is a modified Scrum. And I think the "modified" part is important because not everyone understands that these methods are not an all-or-none deal. How people work is a matter of personality and not everyone is adaptable to the same environments. So, you try to do what you can but it really depends on everyone really trying and working at it (i.e. the big picture and not just their part of a particular project). The nice thing about Agile is that it focuses on communcation and reflection. If something is not working, people can suggest something new and you try that for a while to see if it works and adjust from there. We are constantly going over what is and is not working for us and trying new things. While some might disagree with me, I feel that Agile is more suited to application development than it is database development. But that is not to say there is no middle-ground and in our DB team we do what we can and get mostly there. I think the biggest area of contention for me is in Data Modeling since Agile focuses on less planning and more on refactoring over time. That is all well and good for Stored Procedures and such, but it is certainly not as easy to refactor tables, especially when there are millions of rows of data (many gigs) and thousands of Stored Procs built on top of that model. With that one exception, I think Agile has worked out really well for us and certainly worth investigating for those who haven't tried it. However, it will not work for everyone as no way of thinking--whether it be politics, religion, economics, or software construction--will work for all people. The key is just to try until something works.




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Post #574025
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 12:25 AM
Grasshopper

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Agile, extreme programming, all common sense really. Some developers would come to something like the same methodologies on their own. It's not rocket science after all (unless you do rocket science).

What isn't common sense is allowing the customers to dictate everything without compromise, and the managers letting the customers do this. Organisations hardly ever understand the problems inherent in software development, and want to spend even less time and money solving those problems. Instead, let's outsource.

As I once said to a global head of IT for a major bank, "I can understand why you want to oursource. They produce the same kind of cr&p, but for a lot less money....."

Don't address the problems, just shift them onto someone else and pat yourselves on the back.
Post #574051
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 2:23 AM
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Didn't the three amigo's - Booch, Brady and Rumbaugh cook up the Capability Maturity Model back in 1995/6?
Post #574112
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 6:29 AM


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Reality can be a real problem sometimes. It seems like all good ideas run into it at some point.

Thanks for pointing us to another interestng article, Steve.

I think that software methodologies like the maturity model and later approaches like agile can be very valuable in certain situations. They're just not universal, though. I have a lot of friends who work for companies supplying the military. I totally understand and appreciate the maturity model when you need a product that absolutely can't fail. It requires a lot of money, but that's what you need to do to prevent your aircraft from falling from the skies. I appreciate concepts like Agile development, but as the article pointed out, they sometimes fall short.

The problem is that most companies in America start small. They just can't afford all of the expense of advanced methodologies. The owners hire their brother-in-law who just read "learn to program in 24 hours" to build their base software package and those of us who get called in later wind up cleaning up the terrible messes that the original developers create. In those cases you can get major improvements by introducing ANY level of order in the development process.


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Post #574256
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 6:33 AM


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I have seen firsthand that the way things are built can be changed.

Our development group has undergone such a change. As I see it, 3 things happened to make it successful:

1) There was a change in leadership in the group. The new lead developer that was hired to replace an outgoing one brought new ideas to the development process and got developers excited to try the change.

2) They implemented an Agile / Scrum method. They sold management and marketing groups on the process and started to produce some favorable results. Because they started to produce, other groups stopped micromanaging their efforts, which in turn allowed them to make more progress.

3) Finally, there have been a core group of developers that have been kept together for that entire time.

The results are that in the past two years, the whole process has improved greatly.

Post #574259
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 6:56 AM


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Glad you liked the article and was curious how things have worked for people out there. From an ex-rugby player, the idea of doing something in a Scrum appeals to me. Was hoping it was a way to push developers around

I think you have more chance of going with these advanced methodologies when you're small, it's when you're young that you have trouble with VCS, daily builds, etc.

Jason Fried at 37 Signals said it nicely. He said they try things, if it works, they do more. If it doesn't, they change.








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Post #574280
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 7:41 AM
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Steve,

I think one of the keys is the developer's mindset. I have known some who get set in their ways and won't try anything different. Others will flit back and forth between methodologies and get very little accomplished. You have to be willing to change and learn new things but you have to actually produce results at some point.

The word cult in your title suggests, to me at least, that getting buy-in to a methodolgy is like getting people to join a cult. Once in that cult, they must throw off their other ideas and follow their fearless leader regardless of the outcome.

Agile development is just the opposite. I have employed parts of it to get buy-in from user departments who see progress being made sooner than if I sat at my computer for six months and then threw a product at them. You catch mistakes and misunderstanding sooner and that results in better product and happier users. Anyone who becomes cult-like in their devotion to a single methodology or technology needs to step back and examine if they're doing more harm than good.

It's about flexibility and doing what you need to get results.


Post #574330
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 7:42 AM
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I agree with SSC Journeyman- you do not need to fully adopt scrum page by page as described in books, training sessions, etc. We did in our organization, about 6 months ago. Initially, there was a lot of resistance and eventually everyone adapted to agile development using scrum methodology. This definitely improved the communication amongst team members, encouraged to work in a team environment as well as being agile to learn to adapt change quickly and learn to take on responsibility. We started with 1 team and now have 5 parallel scrum teams going on with a mixture of design, development, QA and tech writer. Overall, this has changed the mindset in people to adapt to quick change as companies are getting hit hard and things change as top executives make changes on a weekly basis to beat competition and to survive current market conditions and needs from our customers.
Post #574331
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 7:52 AM
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Similar to what Steve, our SSChampion said, with the use of scrum, we streamlined our builds process and definitely development team cleanup their act and constantly delivered builds to QA in a timely fashion. Again, like I mentioned in my previous reply, that the organization has to figure out how to adapt to agile method and it surely works if you put it to work and I would say that you will not see the results until your 2nd or 3rd sprint. Definitely, your 1st sprint, depending on the content, could be a failure but you learn and continue with the next sprint. Another great benefit of the scrum method is you constantly have the presence of the product owner, and at the end of the sprint, you demo the feature(s) (i.e. code complete, tested, etc) to the stake holders. The stake holders loved this for they got exposed to the features up front and at an early stage rather than at the end of the release since a release can be delivered in multiple sprints.
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