Apple, Google, or Microsoft? – Which Does Agile Better?

Had a bit of fun creating this image in photoshop, but even more fun thinking about who really is the most Agile company. Per The Open Sourcery, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all claim to be Agile shops. So who really is the most Agile shop? How do you weigh the differences?

Weighing in at $350/share on the Nasdaq we have Apple – The ultra-secretive shop. These guys have a cycle for major updates about once a year, but Apple can deliver in considerably less time a major upgrade or fix is needed. Case in point: iPhone and iPad bugs. The guys over in Cupertino, CA know how to build products, but they don’t even share the overall strategy or details on upcoming products.

Our lightweight is Microsoft, at a measly $30/share on Nasdaq – These guys providestrategic planning and directions as to what they are building and what they have planned. Its Windows continuum was renewed once again by Steve Ballmer at the CES 2011 show with one significant departure – instead of being exclusively an Intel x86 platform choice, Microsoft has added the ARM CPU+System architecture. But the OS will be Windows 7 not Windows Phone 7 [which is built on largely the same language tools but has some novel OS design and implementation methods].

More after the jump!

Like Google, Microsoft can be mixed on how the detailed plan is  implemented – sometimes open and other times ultra secretive. But Microsoft almost always has a substantial beta processes sometimes eliciting the partcipation of thousands of users and some prestigious early client/organizational adopters. – Open Sourcery

However, Microsoft software generally has very long delivery cycles measured in years. Typical is the recent Windows cycle which from XP to Vista was 4-5 years and Windows 7 to Windows 8 looks like 2-3 years. Even the Windows 7 upgrade for from Vista to 7 was well more than a year.

The heavyweight for today’s round is no joke. Coming in at well over $600/share we have The Google – Like Microsoft, they also provide general directions and has introduced and then after 1- or 2 iterations walked away from, redirected, or postponed work on major projects. Two examples are Google Wave and the Nexus One Smartphone. Google has a mixed record on being open about the detailed plan; some projects are explicit and others are as secretive as Apple. However, once a basic API is revealed, the project becomes more open.

Often clients are invited early to do beta testing [think Google Books and Google Maps] and are surveyed for their reactions to the software. – Open Sourcery

The projects tend to have short update cycles of 3-6 months [think Android and Google Docs] but this may be after a longer 1 year or greater first gestation period.

So who is #Agile #win?

Well, based on this information, it may be hard to say, while Apple churns out products pretty regularly, Google definitely has the agility to make changes throughout product life cycles. If things don’t work out, they can course correct pretty easily. Microsoft may have MSF for Agile Software Development, but maybe they need to take some of their own medicine. While MSF is a scenario-driven, context-based, Agile software development process that utilizes many of the ideas embodied in Team System (Visual Studio), they still push products pretty slow.

I would have to say that Google probably is the more Agile shop. They have an open-source mentality (that is changing by the way with Net Neutrality and taking H.264 support from Chrome), but that doesn’t make them more-or-less-Agile. They sure can push product (Full Google product list).

What do you think?

[HT: Open Sourcery]

6 Responses to “Apple, Google, or Microsoft? – Which Does Agile Better?”

  1. Derek Huether
    February 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    I enjoyed this piece because it made me think about Agile from two perspectives. You have the “we leverage Agile development practices” group and the “we think therefore we are agile” group.

    Agile Development Practices
    I’ve known people who were ScrumMasters for both Google and Microsoft. This was about 5 years ago. Scrum and Agile weren’t nearly as mainstream as they are today, yet I know both companies were leveraging them internally. I have no comment on Apple. :-)

    Agile-like Cultures at Companies
    I feel, the more web-based or cloud-based the product distribution is, the more agile a company can be. It’s a lot easier to support a “fail early” approach, when you don’t plan to charge your customers for the product or throw marketing dollars at it.

    I see Apple as being an agile company in that they have very predictable release cycles. Unfortunately, their world is ruled and controlled by “Steve”. I wouldn’t want to feel the wrath of Mr. Jobs. I certainly would not feel empowered there.

    From my perspective, Microsoft does not think or act agile. They seem to have a strong command and control hierarchy. (Can someone out there dispute this?) Also, look how bloated their software is! Can you say “code debt”?

    After listening to Matt Cutts (from Google) on This Week in Google, he said any engineer is empowered to “stop the line”, under the do no evil policy. Also, he said Google deploys to production several times a day. THAT sounds pretty darned Agile to me.

    • peter
      February 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

      Exactly. The guys at Google certainly seem empowered, but why are they all jumping ship to get jobs at Facebook? Is facebook more agile than all three?
      http://agilescout.com/video-agile-scrum-at-facebook/

      • Derek Huether
        February 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

        Actually…..yes! Facebook is even more agile than Google. Google is a developer driven company. But, Facebook is WAY more developer driven. I think it will be that way until they go public. Until then, let the Mountain Dew flow. Daily stand-up in 15 minutes!

        • peter
          February 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

          Speaking of which, daily standups are 15 minutes for a reason. Keep em that way!

      • Derek Huether
        February 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

        I wanted to interject Facebook into the conversation but I like to keep blog comments shorter than the actual blog post.

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