Monday, October 31, 2011

End the holy war over agile development

Bob Lewis writes in Java World:

Why agile is essential for next-generation IT

Depending on whether you're a proponent or a detractor, agile is either a family of methodologies or a religion composed of one true denomination and a handful of variously misguided sects whose only virtue is being less misguided than the waterfall contingent. The same may be said for waterfall, only backward.
In fact, for all the religious fervor, the question of which methodology is superior can only be answered by the phrase business managers like least from consultants: "It depends."

Without a doubt, next-generation IT organizations will have to master agile. Why they'll have to master it has nothing to do with "I want to run an agile project" and everything to do with "it depends." Specifically, "it depends" boils down to two factors: how fast a company needs a solution, and how long that solution will have to last. In an increasing number of business situations, deadlines and lifespans are getting shorter all the time -- criteria for which agile is well-suited.

The upside of agile is that businesses that implement it are great at adapting to change quickly. That's because the software supporting the business is built in small chunks that are deployed quickly and bring business benefits early. When business circumstances change before the next chunk is supposed to be ready, it doesn't matter, because agile designs are just in time, not all at once.

Agile is great at one more thing: graphical interfaces that fit how users want the software to operate. That's because agile calls for high levels of informal interaction between developers and users, without any need for intermediaries.

Does that make a business more agile? It sure does, because the better the software fits how users think about their work, the less time they'll need to learn it, and the less often they'll misuse it when taking care of oddball situations.

Moving IT beyond agility

Where does this leave someone trying to take IT into the next generation?

Every business of any size and age has some areas subject to rapid and unpredictable change, and others that are, for the most part, stable. IT has to be able to support both, which means using agile and waterfall techniques based on what the situation demands, not personal preference.

In other words, next-generation IT has to be something even more difficult than agile: It has to be versatile.

Read the full article by Bob Lewis at:

About the author:
Bob Lewis is president of IT Catalysts, Inc., an independent consultancy specializing in IT organizational effectiveness and business integration. He's the author of Leading IT: (Still) the Toughest Job in the World, nine other books, and more than 800 articles on managing information technology organizations.

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