By starting with the statement “Agile doesn´t work” you really ask for trouble these days. I was attending a conference earlier this week and I meet Agile coaches, Agile Managers, Agile Testers, Agile Requirement Engineers and Agile Evangelists in general. The conference itself was very good and I got the possibility to talk about the requirements role for a successful project. Unfortunately, I needed to leave early so perhaps you might call me an Agile planner?
No, but on the metro back to the office (you know my Agile Schedule) a LinkedIn post by Oleg Vishnepolsky, CTO at DailyMail in UK, caught my attention. It started “Agile does NOT work!”.
He started; “Try telling someone that you are not agile. You might be arrested on the spot. The issue is that the word agile in the eyes of everyone is similar to the word good. Try telling others that you are not good, and they will call for a psychiatrist.”
I continued to read the post with great joy. I think he is spot on!!
Why Agile isn´t a silver bullet
Agile can be defined as “Agile (software) development describes a set of values and principles for software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams” (source Wikipedia).
First of all, don’t get we wrong. I don´t like the approach with “analysis paralysis” and so heavy front loading that you never get through the first base of requirements elicitation and definition. Many organizations have historically lacked the ability to say “this is good enough” and moved further in the development chain. If you stop to long the inertia of badly performed Systems Engineering will force the project to continue and start to develop stuff regardless. They have deadlines and a customer to satisfy, AND doing Agile projects makes it easier to skip the boring work of documenting both requirements and design. The team can go right ahead and do the fun stuff..
But is Agile as an opposite the salvation of any badly performing organization with schedule overruns, lost margins, port system quality and unhappy stakeholders?
I would argue not! You have the same people coming to work, but now let’s do the mistakes in an Agile manner instead.
Well, of cause, Agile basic principles are nice and I do like them:
- You have customer focus (instead of technology focus)
- You divide the work in suitable chunks, and;
- You group in teams instead of stove pipes so that you get much better cross pollination of views and ideas. That’s great!
But it is still humans that needs to understand the problem they are there to solve. Perhaps Agile is a way of getting it better, but not getting it right? Could an old Waterfall organization that goes Agile like this approach because it reveals the problems earlier than before? Are they really looking into the root cause of the problems they are facing (which haven’t gone away just because you went Agile).
The common-sense methodology
Mr Vishnepolsky introduces the common-sense methodology and I like that thinking very much. Instead of digging trenches and throwing dirt on anyone not from the right belief, you might like to make a short retrospect and look at yourself before you continue this argument.
I would like to add my small contribution: For god sake, look at the scope and early requirement definition phase and do it with FOCUS and a sence of INFORMATION QUALITY!
Making it right from start so that people understand what you mean
Ok, I might add that you can develop this type of knowledge using an arbitrary methodology, but just for the sake of it say that you write some business or stakeholder requirements to make sure that you understand the problem you are there to solve. After you have agreed with the stakeholders the task at hand (to a reasonable level of detail) you might develop technical requirements using natural language techniques (writing requirements) and/or doing some system modelling to get the system boundary and interfaces in place. You might have read the architecting blog series here by Hillary Sillitto?!
But who do you have in mind when you do this work? You are not doing this because it’s fun or because someone asked you to, you do it to COMMUNICATE with others. The stakeholders need to understand your solution to his/her need AND the next person receiving your information (developers, testers, integrators, etc.) also need to understand what you are proposingSo, please start to do your requirements with some level of curiosity from the team working with them. You really need to understand their role here as drivers of knowledge from one part to the next. They first of all need to be correct and together with their other requirement siblings at the same abstraction level, they need to be complete (to the degree to level risk and avoid costly errors) and also not in conflict with each other so that one says “right” and another “left”.
But primarily, human write requirements for other humans. Perhaps using a second language and communicating through barriers like: culture, development contracts, technology domains and/or business hierarchies.
That’s my contribution to the common-sense discussion. Over and out!
Read the post by Mr Vishnepolsky here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/agile-does-work-oleg-vishnepolsky/