The agile approach to development comes with expectations of increased continuous delivery of software through team collaborations -- but the results are far from guaranteed.
The potential for failure with agile development and how to respond such a breakdown was the of focus of Vertikal CTO Hank Birkdale’s keynote at this week’s DeveloperWeek New York conference. He said that prior to his work with Vertikal, a risk management solution provider, he served as executive program manager for an agile transformation with a large financial services enterprise. The plan then was to turn a shop with some 12,000 people into an agile shop. “This was a while ago,” Birkdale said. “When I first started, I was a little bit skeptical.”
He became more confident about agile methodology after completing that project and expected to apply lessons learned to other roles in the future. Birkdale described agile as an adaptive software development process that delivers in incremental chunks. He said most failures in agile occur while assessments are still underway. “They’re right in front of you during the practice, during a sprint demo, during a sprint planning session, during whatever practices you’re using,” Birkdale said. “That’s where you actually see the failures.”
Diving blindly into agile can also be a quick way to make matters worse, he said. If organizations ignore the core principles of agile while trying to adopt the methodology, Birkdale said they are likely to create more challenges for themselves and increase the chances for failure.
A key indicator that agile is not working is the team is not delivering, he said, and no one knows what they are doing. There may be emails about sprint demos being cancelled but little else to show. “One of the things about agile -- working software is the primary measure of progress,” he said. “If you’re not seeing working software, the team is actually failing.”
Here are some of the issues Birkdale said to look for if teams are not delivering:
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Joao-Pierre S. Ruth has spent his career immersed in business and technology journalism first covering local industries in New Jersey, later as the New York editor for Xconomy delving into the city's tech startup community, and then as a freelancer for such outlets as ... View Full Bio