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Is Agile Development a Failing Concept? 507

Nerval's Lobster writes: Many development teams have embraced Agile as the ideal method for software development, relying on cross-functional teams and adaptive planning to see their product through to the finish line. Agile has its roots in the Agile Manifesto, the product of 17 software developers coming together in 2001 to talk over development methods. And now one of those developers, Andy Hunt, has taken to his blog to argue that Agile has some serious issues. Specifically, Hunt thinks a lot of developers out there simply aren't adaptable and curious enough to enact Agile in its ideal form. 'Agile methods ask practitioners to think, and frankly, that's a hard sell,' Hunt wrote. 'It is far more comfortable to simply follow what rules are given and claim you're 'doing it by the book.'' The blog posting offers a way to power out of the rut, however, and it centers on a method that Hunt refers to as GROWS, or Growing Real-World Oriented Working Systems. In broad strokes, GROWS sounds a lot like Agile in its most fundamental form; presumably Hunt's future postings, which promise to go into more detail, will show how it differs. If Hunt wants the new model to catch on, he may face something of an uphill battle, given Agile's popularity.
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Is Agile Development a Failing Concept?

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  • Agile. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:17PM (#49690041) Journal

    DNRTFA, but I think this will be a fun thread.

    Regardless of what Agile really is (a true scotsman?) the abuses perpetrated in the name of agile are appaling. I think a lot of people think agile means something like:

    make bad developers good by not bothering to organise things properly

    Which is really amazingly appealing if completely bogus.

    • Re:Agile. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:21PM (#49690089)

      ...and make good developers bad by drowning them in meaningless process (i.e. create task for every minute change, span multiple tasks if it takes too long), all while making everyone less productive by wasting time in scrum meetings taking 2 hours every day.

      • Re:Agile. (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:29PM (#49690187)

        I'm in a "stand-up" even as I type this response. Ours are typically only 30 minutes or so. Unless, of course, our PM decides to tack on some estimation at the end, then they balloon to an hour or more. Then our QA lead tacks on a discussion of every recently-active ticket.

        Most of us just check out of it mentally and go do something else (like read /.) after our personal status update.

        And it ended as I typed that last sentence. LUNCH TIME, MUTHAFUCKAS!

        • Re:Agile. (Score:5, Funny)

          by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:02PM (#49690655) Journal

          Funny you should mention this... I actually got a lot of actual work done in the two-hour monster retrospective I sat through this morning. I just listen for my name and glance at the Kanban board occasionally to see if I come up next. :)

          Thank Heaven for wifi and laptops, is all I can say, else I'd never get anything done.

          • Re:Agile. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:26PM (#49690967)

            Thank Heaven for wifi and laptops

            Sigh. That's why my company banned laptops from sprint planning and sprint retrospective meetings. With forty devs, it takes about six hours to score enough stories to keep all of us busy for two weeks. The retrospective, aka bitch sessions that really hurt morale, take a couple of hours. That's an entire day wasted every two weeks with nothing done. Add-in the JIRA-induced overhead, preplanning meetings, creating user stories, etc., and I think I only get to write code about ten hours a week. Agile is just too heavy of a process.

            • Re:Agile. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by brix ( 27642 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:50PM (#49691301)
              Well no wonder - 40 devs is way too large for a single scrum team. And both of those meetings should take place at the team level, not for everyone working on the product. Why not split into 4-5 smaller scrum teams and let the SMs and POs coordinate any inter-dependencies?
          • We practice stop/start/continue retrospectives where each team member gets to put up at least 3 items. They are then ranked by frequency ( if 3 people say that doughnuts every morning is a continue item) it gets a rank of 3.

            It a structured and relativly fast process, we take the top 5 stop/start items and apply them on the next sprint. It important to limit it to 3 or 5 so that its achievable.

            Hence the retrospectives can be reduced to under an hour.

            We also practice the 70/30 rule, only 70% of the devs tim

      • Re:Agile. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:48PM (#49690437)

        We limit our scrums to 15 minutes per day. If it's taking longer than that, you're doing something wrong. Your teams are too big, or your sprints are too long, or you're going into too much detail on items, etc.

        • by Creepy ( 93888 )

          Exactly - scrum is a status report to make sure everyone is on track, not a meeting to resolve problems. If you have problems, take it up with the scrum lead after the meeting. In three years of doing scrums, two hit the 20 minute mark and most are 10-15 at most.

        • Re:Agile. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @02:19PM (#49691545) Journal
          IMO if you have to meet every day, you're already doing it wrong.

          If you need something from someone, or are having a problem, there is no reason to wait until the next day to bring it up.
          If your scrum is a 'status meeting' and you also have an issue tracker (like Jira), then they are redundant.
          If you are working with someone in the same section of code, and you need to go to a meeting to find out status, you are doing something wrong.
          If you are bringing up issues in a meeting that don't relate to 90% of the people there, you are doing it wrong.

          To look at it a different way, the Linux kernel coordinates hundreds of developers perfectly well without having a daily standup. You can do that too.
          • Re:Agile. (Score:4, Informative)

            by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @04:37PM (#49692909) Journal

            Standups are the one time you're guaranteed to catch everyone on your team, so that you can't be blocked for more than a day on anyone internal - and the scrum master should be taking note of anything external your blocked on.

            When scrums say more than "I'm on track, next" or "I'm blocked by X" or "I'm late, sorry", the only real excuse is that you're not using any issue tracking system for tasks, and so the 15 minutes standing around at least saves you the time to keep fiddling with tasks in a DB. If it takes more than 15 minutes, you should just walk away from the standup (I've done this before - it sends a strong signal once multiple people have the courage to do so).

      • Re:Agile. (Score:5, Informative)

        by the grace of R'hllor ( 530051 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:21PM (#49690873)

        The hell? My daily standup is 2-4 minutes. Restrospective takes 15-30 minutes, subsequent planning takes another 30-45. We do weekly sprints, so you're looking at an average worst-case of averaging 19 minutes a day. Boo-fucking-hoo.

        If your standups take 2 hours, then screw that. Tell them what you did, what you're going to do, and what's blocking you. If someone wants to have a long discussion, sit back down and go to work, because the standup is apparently over. If anyone complains, tell them to take a course in scrum.

      • Re:Agile. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:24PM (#49690931) Journal

        If your Scrum meeting takes more than 30 seconds per developer, you are not doing Scrum.

      • Re:Agile. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tshawkins ( 1239974 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:34PM (#49691083)

        Scrumm meetings should never be more than 15 mins, each team member gets 2 mins to describe what they did yesterday, what they will do today, and what inpediments they have. Scrumm meetings should be just the team standing around a whiteboard. They are fast, focusec, to the point and designed to get the team synced up and problems surfaced.

        If you are spending 2 hours on a scrumm meeting/standup then you have a seriously screwed process.

        • Scrumm meetings should never be more than 15 mins, each team member gets 2 mins

          If you have 8 members, that's already more than 15 minutes.

    • by Maxwell ( 13985 )
      A lot of people think agile means "we can develop with no documentation now! "

      Which is also really amazingly appealing and also completely bogus :)

    • Re:Agile. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:32PM (#49690215) Homepage

      Yeah, people put it forward as some universally awesome technique.

      Different teams, different projects, different management .. you can't simply say "yarg, teh agile" and have it work in all cases.

      You don't see most other forms of engineering or building of stuff done in an agile manner .. bridge builders do not wait to design the deck until later, car makers don't just wing it an hope they'll be able to make the parts fit.

      For rapid prototyping and some kinds of projects, sure.

      But I've seen someone try to run a distributed project using agile techniques to build a replacement for a key piece of software with very specific requirements, and which needed to work against published interfaces.

      And the end result was a project which produced a random subset of required functionality, was abysmally late, what it did do it did poorly, and then the project was cancelled. And as often as not the developers were writing the eye candy before the functionality, and adhering to the published interfaces was non-existent because the people involved decided to reinvent the wheel and decided that the existing stuff didn't matter ... because apparently the existing stuff would magically take care of itself.

      Agile is a tool in the suite of project tools ... it's not universal to all projects, it doesn't produce perfect results just for being agile, and it sometimes doesn't even produce the required results.

      Saying "we're going to keep throwing pieces at it and hope that in the end we wind up with what we were hoping for".

      Like it or not, the waterfall method of development and project management still has its place, and it always will. And, likewise, I'm sure there are teams and projects for which agile will be an awesome fit.

      And sometimes the people who decide which method to use are the least qualified to run the project -- I've seen developers insist on agile and fail to deliver anything useful, and I've seen PMs insist on waterfall and do a terrible job of managing it.

      Methodology is a tool, not a magic wand.

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        And the end result was a project which produced a random subset of required functionality, was abysmally late, what it did do it did poorly, and then the project was cancelled. And as often as not the developers were writing the eye candy before the functionality, and adhering to the published interfaces was non-existent because the people involved decided to reinvent the wheel and decided that the existing stuff didn't matter ... because apparently the existing stuff would magically take care of itself.

        I'm confused. What the fuck does any of that have to do with Agile development?

        Adopt any fucking methodology you like and it would've gone wrong because you were clearly employing clowns.

  • by grimmjeeper ( 2301232 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:19PM (#49690051) Homepage

    Like so many other things, it's very difficult to take an ideal theory and put it into practice in the real world. If your team really understands the ideas behind Agile and you have a good process in place to make it happen, you can have a great deal of success.

    Unfortunately, like so many other things in life, most teams don't get it right and they end up failing to some degree or another.

    • Like so many other things, it's very difficult to take an ideal theory and put it into practice in the real world. If your team really understands the ideas behind Agile and you have a good process in place to make it happen, you can have a great deal of success.

      Unfortunately, like so many other things in life, most teams don't get it right and they end up failing to some degree or another.

      Cannot be restated often enough.

      I've worked in a shop that started doing "Agile" development after years of more waterfallish practices. This essentially meant that we started to get customer requests organized in an Agile toolset and then had a sprint planning meeting to negotiate the value of the various requests so that we could start work on them. Standups often took a half an hour for 6 people, including the PM, who unfortunately doubled as the scrum master. It wasn't terribly agile, and it didn't buy

    • I offer 2 rules to improve your software development project (and surprisingly they work for a lot of other business activities too)
      1) Pay attention to who you hire and who you select for your team. Software development is about people.
      2) Do not replace thinking with process and methods.
      Process and methodologies provide useful structure and standardization but it will not turn crap employees into good ones. They do however have the potential to turn great employees into mediocre ones.
  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:19PM (#49690057)
    It is hard to take someone seriously when the argument seems to be 'my idea is brilliant! but most people are not good enough to implement it!' rather than 'hrm, maybe my idea is not the universal solution and one needs to fit the methodology to the requirements and resources involved?'
    • by grimmjeeper ( 2301232 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:24PM (#49690115) Homepage
      But is that really the case? I mean, I've seen some projects that are nothing more than "chuck whatever $#!t compiles over the wall every Friday" but claiming to be "Agile". There is no disguising the fact that they took the name and didn't even bother to try to learn what Agile is all about. Is that really a failure of the idea of Agile or just a crap company giving Agile a bad name?
      • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:34PM (#49690245)

        From where I've sat Agile just looks like 'weekly iterative waterfall; skimp on testing'.

      • Well ... people will cherry pick what they want out of stuff, and will NEVER implement it all according to your perfect idea. Reality simply doesn't allow for perfect implementations according to an abstract theoretical model.

        That is a 100% true fact. It's true for Agile. It's true for Waterfall. It's true of religions, philosophies, and all other -isms.

        At the end of the day, someone says "but you didn't do all of the things I said you should and therefore the failure of my awesomeness must be in how yo

        • Well ... people will cherry pick what they want out of stuff, and will NEVER implement it all according to your perfect idea. Reality simply doesn't allow for perfect implementations according to an abstract theoretical model.

          That is a 100% true fact. It's true for Agile. It's true for Waterfall. It's true of religions, philosophies, and all other -isms.

          At the end of the day, someone says "but you didn't do all of the things I said you should and therefore the failure of my awesomeness must be in how you did it".

          Which is convenient and all, but if your system comes down to "my idea is perfect but your execution sucked" ... well, maybe your perfect idea is far too damned reliant on fundamentally unrealistic assumptions which aren't justified?

          If your perfect abstraction doesn't hold up to reality, maybe it's not reality which is lacking? Or at the very least that your perfect abstraction is an incomplete theoretical model.

          No software development methodology survives first contact with actual coding.

    • by rilister ( 316428 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:12PM (#49690781)

      Funny thing is that the original 'AGILE Manifesto' wasn't 'theory' or even a methodology: it was really a set of observations on what did and didn't work for them.
      I think the 'universal solution' aspect of AGILE is let your smartest people work the way that they find most efficient - trust your (best) people. Many of the core concepts are not revolutionary: don't get bogged down in planning, work in small teams, prepare to adapt rapidly when your spec cannot be fixed.

      The AGILE guys were inspired by the obvious wastefulness and inefficiency of the big enterprise software projects they had been on, so to that extent their observations were dead accurate. But now people are acting as though the *specific methodology* that's grown up around it is precious, holy and applies to everything, everywhere.

      It's exactly like the scene in 'The Life of Brian; where Brian loses his shoe running from the crowd: one guy argues that they should all hold one shoe in the air, and the other guy wants to gather shoes together. The shoe is not the point (SCRUMS, Pair programming, backlogs), it is the idea of working intelligently.

      • It is ironic that Agile was conceived to unshackle developers from monolithic bureaucracy and dogmatic mandates, only to become a dogmatic mandate handed down by a monolithic bureaucracy. Which, I believe, is the point being made by Hunt.
  • by Murdoch5 ( 1563847 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:23PM (#49690107)
    There is no way to optimize the development process for software. Inserting terms such as "Agile" or "Waterfall" really just create bloat and waste time. The best software development process is to have no process and work in the way that fits you best. For instance when I write large software projects, I just start coding, I pick a place to start at and go. I wait until I have large testable blocks completed and then debug and integrate them. I don't follow and form of standard development process and yet have never been held up via a deadline of meeting request.

    When developers try and add those stupid terms, they're basically saying that they can't self manage and instead of taking responsibility, they're going to throw silly management methods around in an attempt to streamline a task which is unique to each individual developer and situation.

    The only things you need to write good code are the right language, the right platform and proper requirements. Once you have those, you can just start and work to completion.
    • The only things you need to write good code are the right language, the right platform and proper requirements.

      The first one is easy, there's so many to pick from that one must be a decent fir. The second one also has plenty of choices.

      Ah. Next time we'll take them in reverse order. As they say, fail early!

    • The only things you need to write good code are the right language, the right platform and proper requirements. Once you have those, you can just start and work to completion.

      I guess that means the world has never seen good code.

  • My .$02 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geeper ( 883542 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:26PM (#49690149)
    Our development and project management groups (~ 50 people) moved from waterfall to scrum/agile 2 years ago. Since then, we have seen a significant increase in quality and velocity. It is also more comfortable for the devs on the teams because they know exactly what the PM process will be and what is expected. I don't know that Scrum/Agile is the best practice out there but in our case, it has brought increased productivity, higher product quality, less worry and overall comfort with all our processes.
  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:29PM (#49690179)

    Agile started failing pretty much as soon as it met the real world. I disagree with Andy Hunt's explanation of why, though. It's not because "thinking is hard", it's mostly because of two things: management not allowing agile to be done correctly, and (from the developer's point of view) it drains software engineering of the things that make it a satisfying and enjoyable activity, turning it into the software equivalent of grunt factory work.

    • I second the management thing. None of the managers want to change the way they manage things (I need a schedule for your work for the next 6 months!) in away that prevents any of the advantages of Agile from being fully realized.

    • Management push-back is a tough one and understandable. They want to know where the company is going in a quarter, two quarters, next year. That means big plans, and it means estimating the size of things way in advance. That's something that Agile is specifically designed to avoid - unnecessary advance planning. I think this conflict exists (or should exist) even in the best Agile development shops. The alternative is the ultimate in management short-sightedness - no plan for the future, just get through t

    • Re:Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @03:02PM (#49691995) Journal

      it drains software engineering of the things that make it a satisfying and enjoyable activity, turning it into the software equivalent of grunt factory work

      I'm confused. The satisfaction and joy of software engineering is turning a problem into a working solution.

      The agile methods I followed let me realise that joy multiple times a day - checking in working code, and see it pass the automated test bed on the build server.

      What is it that you perceive to be satisfying and enjoyable, and how are you losing that?

  • by asylumx ( 881307 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:31PM (#49690207)
    Agile is great in theory and if you can get everyone involved to understand it then it's great in practice, too. The reason I say agile is a failing concept is because those of us in the industry understand it but are remarkably terrible at selling it to the non-technical people we need to have involved in order for our projects to be successful. What good Agile methodology really drives at is an effective amount of involvement from all parties -- customer, analyst, technical team, testers, operations, etc. Most businesses want to fire things at their IT department and then go off and do other things while the project is underway. This is clearly more conducive to the "waterfall" model (which we all know is terrible) and it prevents them from ever seeing and effective agile development implementation.

    So, yes, Agile is a failing concept. Not because the idea bad, but because it's so incredibly difficult to implement fully, and it's not very valuable when partially implemented (you basically just turn it into mini-waterfalls).

    I foresee DevOps ending up with a similar problem.
  • by under_score ( 65824 ) <mishkin&berteig,com> on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:32PM (#49690223) Homepage

    That's not even close to enough time for a major cultural change to take place. The Agile Manifesto describes a culture of work that is so fundamentally different from how work was (and still is) performed, that I expect it will take another 15 to 30 years for organizations to really "get it". This is the same thing that happened with Lean manufacturing. Toyota developed it, other manufacturers adopted it as a fad over the course of about 15 years, and then it declined in popularity... but it never died out because it was "correct" and "good". Now, 40 years later, most manufacturers are still learning to be lean, but lean has fundamentally changed the culture of manufacturing. I have clients that will probably be working to adopt Agile methods over a 10 to 20 year period. Agile hasn't failed... Andy Hunt's patience has failed.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:00PM (#49690633)

    The articles to which TFS links point have more than a few links and references to other articles, blogs and books (yes, "see my article/book") written by Andy and the "gang of 17". Not exactly astroturfing, but certainly rather self-promotional. "Agile" is one methodology, appropriate for some situations, but certainly not the "one ring to rule them all." (if I recall, wearing that ring had some negative effects...) Now he wants us to move on to: "The GROWS (TM) Method."

    All this probably benefits someone, not sure it's always us.

  • by prgrmr ( 568806 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:01PM (#49690645) Journal
    As a system admin, I admire agile for the rapid proto-typing. Because as we all know, business users seldom know what they really want, but they all know what they don't like. However, I hate agile for being the universal excuse for turning project management into an exercise for "let's make it up as we go along", because then everyone expects me to work like that too. They don't want to acknowledge, let alone understand, that being a good system admin is about being organized and informed and having a more than 5 minute attention span.
  • Certainly Not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by careysub ( 976506 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:12PM (#49690777)

    Iterative, incremental development - the core of agile - has been around at least since Barry Boehm described the "spiral model" of development in 1986, and has been successfully used for nigh upon 30 years since under various monickers (and I'll bet there were practitioners before Boehm's paper).

    "Agile" has matured and developed a lot of inter-related supporting practices and tools that have made it increasingly powerful and easy to implement. Continuous integration, test-driven development, use of "stories" as a tool for requirements definition, you cannot tell me these techniques and tools are not successful.

    I have personally seen the development practices of a company dramatically transformed for the better by having an agile trainer brought in and training the entire staff, including managers, and instituting formal agile practices. It is great when a junior developer can tell the VP of marketing to take a hike because his request has not been submitted through the grooming and priority assignment process.

    This one experience gives me complete confidence that people mocking agile simply do not know what they are talking about.

    One problem agile does have is with zealots who don't understand that this is, and has to be, a collection of related practices that must be tailored to the needs of the environment, not a one-size-fits-all, all-or-nothing thing. Another problem is thinking that "form" is what is important, not "what is happening".

    For example: holding stand-ups is not agile. It is a common, useful tool to use in an agile environment. If your team is coordinating with informal sessions as needed, Skype, chat tools, and an updated Wiki in real time, and the managers are keeping in the loop using these tools, then maybe a stand-up is a waste of time for you. I think most teams benefit, but design and planning is not part of a stand-up, other meetings are needed for these.

    There can be long-term planning that does not follow the agile model, and can be described as water-fall, and this has its place too. But I think the only really successful development practices are variants of an "agile" type process.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:18PM (#49690833) Homepage Journal
    In the places I've worked where management was just jumping on the buzzword bingo bandwagon, what was being done wasn't really "agile". It was more like "Let's adopt all the overhead of agile but not actually empower the developers or stop micromanaging them." So you end up with the same work load plus the overhead of a daily standup for a team that is way too big for actual agility (30 people, 26 are doing things that don't directly affect you,) and an iteration planning that is generally ignored because the team is always in firefighter mode anyway. You never see time allocated to write unit tests or refactor the code that keeps the team in firefighter mode constantly. So yeah, if you do it wrong, agile will fail.

    I've been watching the idea since the early 00's. I've been on teams that have adapted the processes to work for the team and have been very successful doing so. I've seen a team get a cadence going and become extremely accurate at estimating new work for a product the same 5 people worked on for 5 years. During that time they also dramatically improved the quality of the code, reducing crashes that required weekend coverage to almost 0. Every once in a while they'd adjust their processes if things weren't working smoothly. Teams can work very effectively in an agile environment, if they're actually allowed to.

    If you follow the evolution of agile, you see a lot of key concepts that get repeated over and over. The guys who wrote it understood that code is never perfect and never really correct the first time you write it. It pushes unit testing as a core component of the process. As with other things, making mistakes and correct them teaches you something about the problem, and so the whole process is designed around uncovering those mistakes quickly, throwing code away and rewriting it and constantly improving quality. The philosophy of most companies is that the developers should just crap something out that kind of works and then move on.

    What it basically comes down to is just because your team is agile doesn't mean you can hire chimpanzees to write your code. Or manage the team. If you're looking for a silver bullet that will fix what's wrong with your company, agile isn't it. It enforces much more discipline than whatever crappy process you were using before that, but you really have to understand what it's about, and most people don't.

  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:27PM (#49690977)

    it's management. When you get a good project manager its like a breath of fresh air. The best PM I ever worked for was a guy that used to be a developer and just didn't understand object based programming, after an honest assessment, so he decided to go into project management. He shielded us from all the corporate BS and just let us code.

    Most of the other PM's I have worked for have no background in programming. Some of them claimed to and didn't, which is much worse than someone that just tells you they don't. They would insist on idiotic exchanges like the following:

    PM: How long will it take to code this?
    Me: I'm not sure until I get all of the requirements
    PM: Can you give it a guess?
    Me: Sure but what's the point? It won't be a very good guess.
    PM: That's OK I just need something to put on the project plan
    Me: *Bullshit radar is now on full alert* So you just want me to pull something out of my ass so that you can finish up your project plan? Is that it?
    PM: Umm, well,'s not like that
    Me: OK, fine. I'll give you numbers but they are going to be grossly inflated to account for the unknowns. It covers my ass. Kind of like what you are doing, no?
    PM: *Grunts and walks away*

    Most of these people look at project management as if we were building widgets on an assembly line. As if we know exactly how long each task is going to take. Well, software development is not not like that. Not in the least. The ones that understand that - the ones that are truly "Agile" as it were - are the successful ones. The successful ones understand that any number of things can go wrong and plan accordingly.

  • Agile is like ITIL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:28PM (#49691007)

    I do systems engineering work for a professional services/software company. Development is fully Agile with a capital A, whether or not it makes sense for a particular project. On the systems side of the house, we have another particular religion called ITIL which lots of companies have jumped into with both feet. The problem with both of these concepts is that they are adhered to, almost to a comical level, even if it's painfully obvious that parts of it don't fit.

    Adhering to all of ITIL, for example, is a really good way to ensure your production systems almost never change. The number of people and sheer volume of paperwork, tickets and meetings to get anything even scheduled for a change in a "true ITIL" system is beyond insane. The same goes for incident management -- we have so many single-task focused "resolver groups" that I have no idea how anyone knows how any of our systems operate end-to-end. ITIL is great for mainframe systems, safety sensitive stuff, and networks which never change.

    "True Agile" and "True Waterfall" are opposite ends of the spectrum. Agile gets you very fast development, at the expense of pinning down any sort of architecture in the beginning. Waterfall often results in software you have to throw away because the requirements change out from under you. However, there are some things that require at least some discipline, both in systems and development. No systems guy would ever advocate just logging in and making random changes on a production system to see what happens. No smart developer/architect charged with writing something that underpins tons and tons of other things would advocate swapping out the core components without at least some backward compatibility thrown in. The prpblem is that "gurus" make their money selling management on these methods. In the case of both Agile and ITIL, it's a manager's dream -- everyone becomes a replaceable unit and business requests can get promoted to production in one Sprint.

  • by engineerErrant ( 759650 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:34PM (#49691087)

    Why would anyone take something seriously that was created and peddled by consulting outfits at $700-per-hour bill rates? I had the misfortune of being incarcerated at Pivotal Labs for a month by a misguided boss who thought their bizarre religion was the answer to all of life's ills. Boy, was that eye-opening.

    As many people rightly point out, that doesn't mean we can't pick up some new ideas from it - my company now does short daily meetings and have a chart with everyone's daily tasking on it, and those have proven very effective. But the other 99% of what the Snowbird 17 vomited forth upon our industry is empty zealotry and jingoism. It was like Scientology right in our codebases, and worked about as well. And no, for god's sake, it wasn't because we just weren't doing it well enough.

    We do have shockingly dramatic quality issues in the software industry, but they will never be addressed by the next dumb-ass management fad. We need to sit down and re-think the ways that we learn to code, get serious about "Software Engineering" degrees in our colleges, and let go of fetishized code patterns as the primary unit of engineering ability. In my own experience, we know plenty enough design patterns, but almost no one understands how to exercise coding judgment in the context of a team or long-term project.

  • by An Ominous Coward ( 13324 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:40PM (#49691161)

    Agile is nothing but an admission by clueless marketing/business development folks that they're terrible at their jobs. They have no idea how to do market research, they have no idea how to interact with actual or potential customers, they have no idea what a company's products actually do and what solutions they provide, they have no idea how to do the analytical side of their job, and have no vision at all for their industry. So instead they shove all the responsibility onto the development team: hack a small iteration together quick, show it to a customer (or more likely, show it to a cross-function representation of development groups within the company, none of which is trained in market analysis), and repeat until someone in upper management says "hey, this was supposed to be released this quarter". Then marketing will swoop in and offer to put together some glossies.

    Obviously for situations like with a small start-up, you aren't going to have a well-rounded business development unit, and you'll be forced into having developers and other non-specialists pick up the business development slack. That's when agile makes sense: when you have no other option. But big companies with full business development and analysis teams pushing agile on its developers is nothing but welfare for idiot marketers.

  • It can't fail (Score:4, Insightful)

    by swamp boy ( 151038 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:49PM (#49691293)

    It can't fail cause all of the critics are doing it wrong.

  • by javabandit ( 464204 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @02:03PM (#49691413)

    At its inception, the Agile manifesto was simple. Four priority/value statements and then a list of simple principles. The goal? Merely to say that delivering value to the customer, collaborating with customers, frequent delivery and feedback, and team empowerment are the way to deliver software. Focus on delivering value. Don't focus on delivering things that aren't valuable. Very simple.

    Once Agile values started to become embraced and a couple of new development processes came along (SCRUM, etc), you all of a sudden had a bunch of consulting companies and community meetups appear that all but destroyed the perception of Agile. For these companies and community groups, it's all about the process. They will teach you how to "do agile". They will provide you with bodies/contractors who can "do agile". They will sell you certifications which show you "do agile". They will sell you seminars and training on how to "do agile". They will sell you software which "does agile". Agile has went from a basic set of values to becoming a fundamentalist religion.

    So my statement to "Agile Process Improvement" firms is this: You are all just scammers and profiteers. You are software development Pharisees. It is amazing that you focus on profiting from creating processes, enforcing processes, teaching processes, and writing process software... for a methodology where the first value statement is "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools". Why don't you guys teach REAL agile? Why don't you teach companies how to better define value and deliver it to customers instead of selling new processes, fundamentalism, and bodies?

    For the rest of you, if you want to be "Agile". Read the Agile manifesto. Create your own process that suits your team and your business. Work continuously with your customers to understand what is valuable to them. Deliver good value to them often and get their feedback. Allow your team to learn and grow and understand the needs of the customer. THAT is Agile. THAT is all you need to do.

  • Agile Oxymoron (Score:4, Informative)

    by Loconut1389 ( 455297 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @02:18PM (#49691525)

    I always find it funny for something named Agile and aimed at being responsive to needs that people are so "by the book" about it. I find it oxymoronic that there's "one true way" to do something called Agile.

    Some employers are so by the book that they have to have a physical whiteboard with postits even though they also have to have jira and keep both those in sync. The purist agile says no remoting- face to face only, which I think is incorrect- I think "some kind of verbal or visual chat" is sufficient, but the key is communication beyond say hipchat and jira and email.

    Some employers claim to be really purist about it and yet depart in significant ways. I think a lot of employers also use Agile as a way to squeeze long hours out of devs at the end of every sprint even though "purist" agile says 40 hour work week.

    I generally like agile and it took a while for me to understand that MVP doesn't mean do the bare minimum for the sake of doing the bare minimum but with the idea you get it to the customer for feedback sooner and you iterate.

  • If Agile is failing despite voluminous developer output, that's where the rubber hits the road.

    In real world development, you are going to have acceptance criteria written to your PMs level of understanding of the product. Most businesses don't understand product managers, they understand *project managers*, and since project managers are just bookkeepers, organizers, and communication traffic facilitators, meant to be fungible across many types of projects, it just all goes to shit.

    The experts who know the system can't be bothered to write the stories, and the project manager has no fucking clue what they are typing up.

    Here's the stupidest thing ever: a company that develops with Agile, yet still has Subject Matter Experts communicating through the project managers. Of course you have to have a project manager, because it isn't a single team, or even all Agile teams, and the teams need to coordinate their efforts. And of course those SME's are too busy answering everyone's questions to be bothered to write out the specs properly.

    Agile is like most high school physics: it works *perfectly* in low-friction environments.

    Now, the pro-Agile people are going to say you aren't doing it right, etc. etc. You people are like communists: it works if you do it right! No, it doesn't, because it doesn't take into account corruption, greed, politics, propaganda, and deliberate mis-control of information for the benefit of a few. And those things are going to exist in any large-enough group of people.

    Agile will not fix your organizational problems. It only shines a spotlight on them. Usually, when you point this out, everyone will nod their heads. They will all agree it needs to change. The problem is that no one with the power to actually fix the issue is in the room.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault