The State of Agile – David Hicks

Background

I started my career in the early 90s with BIS and then LBMS – the original company behind PRINCE – and was responsible for the first pre-agile iterative and RAD methods at both of these companies. In the mid 90’s I became a consultant and Certified Trainer in DSDM, and was engaged by British Airways where I spent nearly four years managing the implementation of DSDM across their entire 5,000-strong IT department. In so doing I helped British Airways to become the first large company to adopt an Agile method for all of their IT projects, founded RADTAC and began learning about enterprise Agile transformation. During this period I was also asked to do some consulting on the Heathrow Terminal 5 project and it was here in 1998 that I first started using Scrum and started my journey to become a Certified Scrum Trainer. Since then I have helped RADTAC clients large and small become more Agile by employing the full range of Agile software development approaches including Scrum, Lean, XP, DSDM and the Agile/Open Unified Method.

How Agile has Changed

In the mid 90’s the term ‘Agile’ hadn’t even been coined. Many consulting companies had their own RAD methods but DSDM, owned and developed by a large consortium of IT supplier and user organisations, was the only standard method of its type. At this time the DSDM Consortium had over 100 members, but those challenging and trying to move away from waterfall were very much on the bleeding edge and in the minority. There was a real sense of shared community and pioneering spirit. Things changed immediately with the advent of Scrum in 1998. I clearly remember Ken Schwaber’s first presentation to the DSDM Consortium – I gave him a lift from Heathrow to the meeting! A few DSDM practitioners, such as RADTAC, embraced the approach, but most viewed the new kid on the block with suspicion. I signed the Manifesto and became a founder member of the Agile Alliance in 2002, but sadly since then I have seen precious little evidence of the spirit of cross-method community that it espoused.

Over the last ten years, the overriding characteristic of the Agile movement from my perspective has been division, tribalism and religious wars between advocates of the different methods, and between advocates of purist and pragmatic Agile ideologies.

Today fans of Lean pour scorn on Scrum, as do XP and DSDM practitioners, whilst the Scrum Alliance seems to face a never ending series of internal struggles. As one of very few agilists who truly has a stake in all of the main approaches, I would dearly love to see some more ‘unity’ in the ‘community.’

Where is Agile going (in the future)?

Agile is in the process of becoming mainstream. In the last few years we have started to see job advertisements for ‘Product Owners’ appear. Large companies such as BT and Nokia have formally adopted Agile as their standard approach with top-down, management-driven initiatives. Today when I run Agile training classes I rarely come across anyone with anti-Agile opinions. Ten years ago it was quite the opposite. As any new technology crosses the chasm from early adopter to early majority and then late majority usage, it inevitably becomes commoditised, adapted-in-practice and ultimately assimilated into general use. This is where Agile is heading. Worldwide the number of Certified Scrum Trainers and Certified Scrum Masters continues to rise and the Scrum Alliance builds bridges to the PMI. In the UK the DSDM consortium has struck a deal with the APMG (the accreditation organisation for PRINCE2) to launch a new Agile Project Management certification. I believe that these developments will see the old battle-lines become meaningless and a mass of PMI and PRINCE2 practitioners will embrace Agile. This can only be a good thing, but it is certain that as this happens the majority of organisations will struggle to realise the full promise of agile. As with anything complicated, it will be those who are most capable, adaptable and dedicated who will reap the most benefits. This goes for us as well as our customers!

You can find David Hicks at @DaveHicksRADTAC and at http://radtac.co.uk.

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