Towards a Faster Agile

Agile software development is an often misunderstood and misused term. In an exclusive new series of articles, IDG Connect offers expert insight and opinion on Agile. In this piece, Joe Baguley, Chief Technologist for the EMEA region at VMware, explains why Agile is the way forward.

For most of the people I work with in software development, Agile is almost the norm and people look at you incredulously when you do waterfall projects. But if you think about it, Agile is how we did software in the first place because when you first learn to code it's a case of try, moderate, fix, try again, edit...

Traditional project management came along and collided with that until software development grew into the waterfall thing. It took the Manifesto for Agile Software Development in 2001 to remind people to care about the right things.

Today, things are moving so fast in building apps that you can't wait around for six months, and that attitude is feeding more and more into internal development at organisations. If somebody in the business says ‘there's this fantastic cloud app I need', IT has to reinvent itself around that and not just say ‘no, you can't do that'. You have to be fast and do something better quickly or get out of the way.

And today it's getting easier to move quickly. Platform as a Service (PaaS) and services like Cloud Foundry are enhancing Agile because the first phase in any new project is thinking about the architecture. PaaS means you don't have to worry about the architecture so you can stand something up literally in a day.

There are lots of interpretations of Agile but I think about it in terms of both the way you manage projects and the way you interface with the end customer. Some people get it wrong and think of it as asking the customer once a week if their requirements have changed but really it's about delivering outcomes on a daily or weekly basis.
In a very traditional environment you can see process, procedure and cultural challenges and I suppose you can go too far and get so excited about the process that you forget about the product. But if you're sensible you'll be fine.

Agile means that just as sales people are judged on how much they've sold, a project team can be measured on how well they've met objectives. You can have a fluid, campus-style approach where people work late, work early or whatever it takes to get the job done.

I don't agree that Agile won't work where teams are highly distributed. These days you can have the tools to keep that collaborative approach going and a team of five to fifteen people should be able to stay in sync.

Agile is everywhere now and it's the polar opposite of what I call the ‘Shazam' approach where somebody shows up with a product after six months away, say ‘Shazam!,' and nobody knew anything about it. Instead, we talk about the two-pizza rule: never have a team that you can't feed with two pizzas. Agile's not necessarily faster but it delivers better quality products, and a better relationship and understanding between developers and users.


By Joe Baguley, Chief Technologist for the EMEA region at VMware



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