Many of the discussions I am exposed to as an agile consultant are about this question, “Have Agile methods crossed the chasm?” The client wants to know whether he or she will be using a software method that has reached a certain level of maturity and acceptance. Needless to say, the question is of critical importance. A client might be willing to be an early adopter, or even desire to be an early adopter, but he or she wants to be very clear up front about the maturity level of the software method to be adopted.
As important as the question is, I will not try to debate it here, as beauty is often in the eye of the beholder (i.e., client). Instead, I am suggesting that agile will cross the chasm (if it has not yet done so) as part of small companies concerning themselves with what they need to cross the chasm. IMHO the answer from a software perspective is simple: such companies, in just about any industry, need agile to cross the chasm.
We are clearly at the beginning of an era in which more companies build more applications on more devices. Irrespective of the kind of business you are in — health services, financial services, retail, travel, media, gaming, training, advertisement, and so on — your dependence on new applications is growing. These applications run on more platforms and more devices. Moreover, they run in many more geographies than traditional applications used to. We are likely to witness an explosive growth in the number of applications in the years to come.
The explosive growth in applications generates demand for agile methods and agile rollouts in two ways:
- Unless productivity is enhanced, your ability to generate the required number of applications is very much in doubt. Agile enhances productivity. Agile, in conjunction with modern collaboration tools, enhances productivity even more.
- Your best evangelists, consciously or unconsciously, are the developers who are attracted to develop applications on top of the software and services you provide. Your business is only as good as the breadth, quality, and currency of these applications. Many if not most of these developers are in the agile camp. It is very hard to cross the chasm without winning their hearts and minds. Perhaps even more important, it is next to impossible to cross the chasm without stirring their blood.
A third consideration to bear in mind is that the buyer you are targeting is quite likely to change when you cross the chasm. You will need all the agility in the world and then some to switch from the “before” buyer to the “after” buyer. The needs of the two buyers could be and often will be quite different.
If you accept these premises, the debate whether agile software methods did or did not cross the chasm is moot. Agile will cross the chasm because in today’s world, numerous companies like yours depend critically on application developers for their crossing the chasm. In the course of so doing, these developers will make agile cross the chasm.