Agile should buzz off…

by

Ok, I admit that I find buzzwords to be annoying. Not just because that’s the conventional wisdom but more because I think I’m a bit of a cynic at heart. When somebody tells me that they have found something new and great, I often assume they are just being emotional and there isn’t a lot of truth to it. Enter into the picture agile methodology.mainframe-computer

Since this is 2013, it’s probably a bit hard to call agile development a buzzword. After all, people have been successfully delivering projects using it for a good number of years now. But what I really find challenging is when people openly admit that agile isn’t a silver bullet to managing all projects, but at the same time, they believe that waterfall methodology is an archaic thing of the past. I don’t think that’s often true as waterfall works well for certain types of projects. But more interestingly, I love to ask the question: “If agile is really so great, why do you think we’ve been using waterfall for over 50 years before agile became a main stream approach?” I get lots of answers (none of which I believe are correct):

  • Requirements change too rapidly now – they didn’t back in the 1960’s – or at least non-IT expectations are moving more rapidly today than they did
  • People didn’t really know any better; there were no alternatives to waterfall
  • Software was much simpler back then so it was easier to get it right
  • Software is much simpler today because we use proven approaches – so we don’t need to spend as much time doing design or architecture like a waterfall would demand
  • Providing paper-based deliverables keeps people’s careers alive

I’m sure you could add your own to the list with some reasonable, some absurd and some down right cynical in their own right. But here is my answer:

The underlying assumptions have changed between 2013 and 1960.First, computers are cheap in 2013. You can buy a computer for under $100 today that can do a tremendous amount. Heck, your iPhone does way more than a 1960’s room full of computers. Back in the 1960’s, it cost huge dollars just to keep the machine running. Second, computers are abundant today. In 1960, a company was likely to have only a handful of computers. Third, computer languages and operating systems are very different. The 1960’s mainframes would typically run instructions sequentially into a job was completed or errored out. There are also big differences in bandwidth, graphical user interfaces, etc.

Imagine running an agile “sprint” where you could only run the code at night, it would only run until it hit the first bug, the CEO was yelling at you that it cost $100,000 every time you had a bug and you couldn’t just change things willy nilly without incurring big costs. Wouldn’t you more likely make sure you got all the requirements completed first? Then, make sure you have a sound design? Then make sure you absolutely code it right as much the first time as possible? And then make sure you test it in detail because you can’t just look at the screen to confirm that it’s working correctly?

In other words, you’d run a waterfall.

But, as to why it has lasted so long but still has a place in today’s IT environment is a fair question. I’ll leave my answer for another day and another blog…

READ MORE

Fake Case Study: Jack of all trades vs. Master of One

Fake Case Study: Jack of all trades vs. Master of One

  Listen to any earnings call or executive presentation and you will likely hear the terms “top line” and “bottom line.” These are words used to describe a business’s performance. According to Investopedia, the words are defined as follows: Top line refers to the...

read more
Your Personality Is Showing

Your Personality Is Showing

There I was, minding my own business one evening, digging into my organization's SEO performance (as one does), when I came across something interesting. Search terms related to "MBTI" — or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, developed by Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel...

read more
Lessons From a Change Manager Who Hates Change

Lessons From a Change Manager Who Hates Change

Hello. My name is Monique, and I’m a change manager who hates change.   After years of receiving “consulting therapy” from various mentors, I am now able to say these words out loud and proudly. But for a long time, it felt more like an admission of guilt. I mean, who...

read more
Creativity as a Cure

Creativity as a Cure

The topic of creative solutioning has been front and center these days as we talk more and more about organizational adaptability in the face of dynamic and uncertain times. For example, I recently read about a project that got me thinking about specific priorities...

read more
Thought Ensemble, a Pariveda Company — Why Now?

Thought Ensemble, a Pariveda Company — Why Now?

Big news over here as we close out the year - we have been acquired by Pariveda, a 750-person consulting firm in 12 markets across North America! We are now “Thought Ensemble, a Pariveda Company” and I’ll be serving as the Managing Vice President continuing to lead...

read more
Thought Ensemble Joins Pariveda Solutions!

Thought Ensemble Joins Pariveda Solutions!

Dallas, December 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Pariveda, a leader specializing in solving complex technology and business problems, announces the acquisition of Thought Ensemble. With the addition of Thought Ensemble, Pariveda now provides holistic business strategy,...

read more
Thoughts on Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

Thoughts on Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

It was about a year ago that we first started hearing about Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (SB19-085) and I knew it was going to be national news. We’d just gotten past the “Rocky Mountain High” jokes, and our lovely state was trying to break new ground...

read more
Disruption Is the New Normal

Disruption Is the New Normal

By nature, disruptors are not popular. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win, then they copy you.” We have all heard some version of this quote, and we have all seen it play out in real life. We've seen it with building...

read more
What Would You Say You Do Here?

What Would You Say You Do Here?

“I deal with the … customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills!” That famous Office Space quote from Tom Smykowski cracks me up every single time. I know Toms. I’ve been Tom. Change the quote to say, “IT Team” instead of “engineers,” and there’s a...

read more