Agile will never die

on May 26, 16 • by Roy Sarkar • with No Comments

Is there any value in saying Agile is dead? From the mouths of our own people, here's a concise way of reframing the discussion...

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“Agile is dead.” – everyone

This isn’t the first time you’re reading a blog talking about the disappearance/retirement/death of Agile, nor is it another one to rail against the masses and state “Agile is very much alive!” Understandably, an organization that’s embraced Agile could get very confused. Instead, we’ll uncover a concise way of reframing Agile by asking the very people who live it daily, across different roles, goals, and backgrounds.

Let’s fight the FUD with the realities within our own living, breathing software development organization.

Spreading Agile too thin

“Agile’s death was an untimely one, brought about by years of neglect and abuse. The word Agile has come to be somewhat meaningless, which is why it’s time to move on from it.” – Agile is Dead, Long Live Continuous Delivery

There’s truth to the second part of that quote, as evidenced by the myriad books, processes, and implementations with different definitions of what Agile is. There was never any intention to create a One Rule back in 2001 Utah, but that brilliant lack of specificity has led us to where we are today.

Purposefully so.

Rod Cope, CTO, provides examples. “Agile has been so diluted that it no longer has value. It’s become an excuse to skip writing documentation or shortcut the QA process by those who don’t want to do the hard parts, like fully automated testing.”

“I’ve yet to see a fully Agile shop,” adds Christine Bottagaro, CMO, who’s seen the evolution of Agile firsthand with many organizations (read her posts on the subject here). “Speaking to the challenges of any methodology, many teams pick and choose, sometimes ending up with the worst of all worlds.”

Part of the confusion, and certainly no surprise, is that Agile is often confused with Scrum, Kanban, or other methodologies that are actually implementations of the philosophy. People get so caught up in the artifacts – that they’ve customized – that the philosophy ends up being defined inconsistently rather than embraced holistically.

Qualifying Agile

It’s clear that Agile needs to be reframed, so we can stop talking about its death and accept the reality of what teams are doing today.

“DevOps and Continuous Integration (CI) are direct outcomes of Agile,” says Christine. “They’ve introduced new ways of removing waste in the processes themselves and may be the missing puzzle pieces that bear strong Agile fruit.”

Marty Bakal, product manager for CodeDynamics and TotalView for HPC agrees. “I believe these methods are a natural continuation – now that Agile has squeezed timeframes down in development, the next step is to look at other teams and do similar things, the logical one being operations.”

“I certainly don’t see CI/CD as successors to Agile,” contends Mike Bessuille, senior R&D director for Klocwork. “Rather they’re a part of it. In the same way that the ideas of a backlog, frequent customer feedback, short cycles, and automated tests are specific implementation details, CI/CD are tools used to ‘become Agile’.”

Will Agile never die? Impossible to say. Although every person here, despite different roles and backgrounds, came upon the same answer: when talking Agile, it should be qualified with how it’s being implemented. Agile with CD. Agile with CD and DevOps. At least this way, there’s a common basis of understanding and no fear of death.

Back to purpose. Our head Agile guru, Ted Smith, VP engineering, also had deep thoughts on the subject, including “companies successfully deploying Agile management principles consistently kick the tails of those who are not successful.”

The resulting discussion warranted its own post, available here.

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