From Here to Agile2021

 Posted by on Sep 20, 2011  Add comments
Sep 202011


Agile 2011 has been something of an epiphany for me. The confluence of workshops, discussions and interactions with Cutter presenters in the conference led me to thinking of the shape of things to come in quite a different manner than I used to. In particular, I reached the conclusion the forthcoming 2011-2021 vintage will be quite different from the tried and true Agile 2001-2011 vintage.

I have no doubt the nuts-and-bolts of Agile will continue to be a major component of the Agile “curriculum.” You simply must get the Agile practices working at the team level. Metaphorically speaking, you are building towers in the sand if your teams are not proficient in the Agile method. Stand up meetings, retrospectives, cycle times and other Agile constructs and ceremonies are the foundations on which you build an enterprise level Agile roll-out.

Having said that, I see the emerging needs of the business shaping Agile methods in the coming ten years in quite a different way from what we all experienced over the past ten years. Whether you are in e-commerce, financial services, IT, pharmacology, retail, transportation or any other business, the context for Agile is changing. The new context, as depicted in Figure 1, is driven by fundamental changes in three dimensions:

  1. Markets are becoming hyper-segmented. Moreover, they become fleetingly hyper-segmented.
  2. With the rise of prosumers, today’s and tomorrow’s value chains are becoming dramatically different from yesterday’s value chains.
  3. Agile, in combination with Cloud, Mobile and Social transform the choice of technological capabilities. Developers are now facing a problem of choosing the most appropriate capabilities, not of choice.

 Figure 1: The New Context of Agile

Here is one aspect of the new reality – Continuous Grooming. As Figure 2 illustrates, Cloud, Mobile and Social transform the traditional role of the Product Owner to that of a de-facto pollster. He/she drives the product development process by collecting real time feedback from live customers. A feature that was deployed in the morning generates statistically significant customer feedback by the afternoon. Between this afternoon and tomorrow morning, the Agile backlog gets groomed to incorporate and reflect the latest customer feedback. In particular, it gets groomed to incorporate and reflect the feedback generated by prosumers. By so doing, the concept of the whole product changes in a fundamental manner. As indicated in a recent Cutter Blog post, I might not be your customer but I still am your prosumer. In other words, I (and so many other folks who might not even be your customers) possess the ability to shape and reshape your product.


Figure 2: Continuous Grooming


In case my assessment of the transformation to come makes you suspect I am smoking something strong, here is an example of the pace of change we are actually witnessing. In Agile 2009 two years ago, Patrick Debois coined the term devops and introduced the concept infrastructure as code. In two short years – from his Agile 2009 presentation to his Agile 2011 presentation – he was able to push the state of the art to the point that enabled him to state from the podium:

We envision the OS and middleware build a second pipeline, integrated in the traditional build process. The concepts can be visualized as shown in this graphic:

Figure 3: Continuous Integration for the World

(Source: Patric Debois; click here for a full scale chart)


If you examine the numerous contributions made over the past two years by other members of Cutter presenters in Agile 2011 – Scott Ambler, Christopher Avery, Mark Levison, Johanna Rothman, and Hubert Smits – you will witness similarly fast advances in their specific areas of expertise. I have no doubt, they, other Cutter experts, and members of the Agile movement will continue to push the state of the art in as fast a pace in the years to come. I am, therefore, quite optimistic in my outlook on the 2011-2021 period.

By its very nature as a blog post, this “retrospective” is not the appropriate medium for discussing the very many implications of the three dimensions of change described above. We will soon issue a series of Cutter Email Advisors on the subject.  Expect as well a full fledge Cutter Executive Update on 2011-2021 from an Agile perspective in early 2012. Stay tuned!


Israel Gat

Israel Gat served as Cutter Fellow and the Director of the Agile Product Management & Software Engineering Excellence practice from 2008 until 2015.


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