Jul 262012

I recently had the pleasure of responding to the comments made by Voke in a press release about its new report that claims that companies do not understand costs of rework and cannot identify clear benefits of Agile. Brian Bloom of Computerworld Canada asked for my reaction, which was subsequently published in IT World Canada. Though I haven’t had the opportunity to read the full report, my impression is the report reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the core tenets of Agile.

An Agile phrase you might want think about as you read the article is value delivery. Basically, I view Agile software as a triplet {Process, Output, Outcome}, where:

  • Process=The way a self-organizing team works in accord with an Agile method
  • Output=The code produced by the process
  • Outcome=Value delivered to the customer through the output.

The model is illustrated in this picture of the three gears:

In addition to the explicit flow how one thing leads to another (i.e. Process –> Output –> Outcome) depicted in this picture, I discuss the reverse flows of feedback with my clients:

  • Examination of the outcome is priceless in determining whether the team developed the right system, generating value for customers. If little value – in one fashion or another – has been generated, something is wrong with the output, the process, or both.
  • Examination of the output shows whether the team developed the code right (as distinct from producing the right code). If the code is buggy, or has taken “forever” to produce, something is wrong with the way the team is implementing the Agile method.

A vice president of development with whom I am working on transition from Waterfall to Agile has recently assembled his whole team and told them as follows:

Guys, using Waterfall last year we produced one million lines of code. I very much doubt that this code created any value. We would probably have achieved the same business results had we not written a single line of code the whole year.

Obviously, the man thinks about what he is doing. Moreover, he has the courage of his convictions.

Your success rolling out Agile in a sustainable manner ultimately depends on your thinking about how you roll Agile in your specific context and whether you stand for what it takes to do it right. If you don’t, you are likely to end with a ScrumBut, KanBut or SoftBut.


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