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Departing Waterfall - Next Stop Agile
It's been more than a year since I penned, "Before Making the Leap to Agile", an article intended to guide everyone from C-level executives to IT project managers on the adoption of Agile. The goal was to offer up some of the lessons I learned through actual implementations, so that readers could avoid of some of the pitfalls associated with Agile adoption. While a few saw it as an assault on Agile, many understood that my goal was to assist Agile adopters and thanked me for writing it.
1. Agile is Adaptive. For the project team, as well as the business, Agile enables you to make quick changes in direction so that your software product and your business can respond to a rapidly changing business environment.
How? Agile teams use two-to-four week iterations, often called sprints, in which to develop and then release a working product. At the end of each sprint, the team uses retrospectives to look back on the work completed and see how productivity can be improved; the team also works with the customer to determine which work should be accomplished during the next sprint. One technique enables continuous improvement, the other enables the business to re-prioritize work based on changes in the business climate. Together, they make Agile highly adaptive when compared to a Waterfall approach that effectively locks the team in to both a process and business strategy for a number of months.
2. WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Development. Many of us are familiar with this wonderful cartoon that shows how projects really work -- at least in a Waterfall world. Notice how there's an enormous disconnect between the first image, "what the customer asked for", and the last, "what the customer really needed".
3. Shorter Time-to-Market. Let's be honest here - who among us hasn't reported to a C-level who has a great idea and wants something on the market - yesterday. (Heck, I've been guilty of this myself). Using a Waterfall approach, delivering anything to the marketplace takes months and sometimes years. But, by taking an Agile approach, the bare-bones features of a new product can be delivered in weeks, then, further enhanced to provide a truly robust solution. Again, the secret to shorter time-to-market lies in the use of iterations (sprints), with the end of each sprint another opportunity to deliver more features to the customer. Agile has this - Waterfall doesn't.
4. Greater Employee Satisfaction. One of the oft-cited byproducts of Agile development is greater employee satisfaction - both by the project team and the line-of-business responsible for delivering the product. According to Steve Greene and Chris Fry, Salesforce.com reported an 89% employee satisfaction rating after adopting Agile when compared to only 40% before adoption.
With all of this evidence residing squarely in the corner “for” Agile adoption, it's sometimes hard to understand why Waterfall is still practiced. But the truth is, adopting Agile takes a paradigm shift in thinking that is not easy for individuals, much less organizations, to make. It also takes experience not only in practicing Agile, but also in managing organizational change, two qualities critical in Agile consultants.
So, go ahead, make the leap to Agile. Just be certain you're taking the right approach to Agile adoption for your organization before you begin.
Donald Patti is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in project management, process improvement, and small business strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.
|Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2011 06:12|