Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How Agile Works in a Nutshell

Yet Another Fad
We’ve heard it all before. The Segway, UML, Virtual Reality, TQM, object-oriented databases, Artificial Intelligence. Agile’s no different, right? Just the latest fad? That’s what I thought.

Back in 2005 at the SD Best Practices conference, I had my first run-in with Agile development. At a speaker’s reception, my blissful ignorance of Agile came to an end. I was surrounded by Agilists. They looked perfectly normal to me, but then they started to talk about the advantages of keeping track of requirements on 3x5 cards, pair programming, and lots of other crazy sounding stuff.

3x5 cards! Are you kidding me? What is this, the seventies? How can people who make a living writing software advocate the use of 3x5 cards? And what about pair programming? Two people sitting together all day sharing the same keyboard and mouse switching between coding and sitting on their hands, having to hear phone calls about the results of medical tests. Yuck!

I wasn’t just skeptical, I was outraged that all these people were trying to push this nonsense. Keep in mind that I work at a company that provides software tools to companies that are looking to improve their process. On the surface, Agile seems to be diametrically opposed to that. I felt that it was time for somebody to step forward and do something about it. I nominated myself. To gather evidence I read the books, talked to the experts, and attended the seminars. But then one day a funny thing happened. I had an aha moment and I realized there might actually be something of value buried under all of the rhetoric.

To illustrate what I realized, let's compare traditional development and Agile development using a typical development scenario.

Next: Traditional Development Scenario


abby said...

Great intro. The 3x5 card bit is too funny and the "I nominated myself" is priceless.

I do have to say though, you lost me on the "having to hear phone calls about the results of medical tests"...? (is that a new agile method that I haven't learned yet :-) )
The Hacker Chick Blog

Damon Poole said...

Hi Abby,

Breaking news. I haven't spoken at that conference (SDBP) since that run-in, but just found out yesterday that I'll be speaking at SDBP 2008 in October. And the subject? Agile! :-)

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