Your Agile Horoscope [Part 1/2]

I never was a horoscope person. In reality, horoscopes tell you very little about yourself. If I were to ask someone for advice, I usually want pragmatic steps that I can follow to execute on. Not some bland statement like: “Be open to everything…” – What the heck does that even mean?

For many companies, Agile is getting more and more traction and even more press. It would seem like every “good” technology company would want to move to an Agile environment. Even Barack Obama told us to Agile software development.

So do “all signs point to yes” for all businesses to embrace Agile? Is the Agile horoscope a good one? Why are companies looking at Agile more and more?

We asked this question on Programmers.StackExchange and the following is the feedback we got:

  1. Faster delivery
  2. React quicker to changing requirements and priorities
  3. Increase visibility

The following are the discussions on the top three:

1. Shifting requirements, faster delivery

Agile is appealing because it gives the possibility of adapting to changing needs more quickly (or at all), and delivering those changes to the customer more quickly.

This is why many companies fail when using Agile/Scrum: Managers don’t understand that with great power (of setting quicker release dates and changing requirements often) comes the responsibility of relying on developers for estimates. For agile to work, the manager has to be willing to then cut scope.

They want the power of both.

2. React quicker to changing requirements and priorities is appealing.

The ‘manager’ in the end needs to deliver a solution to the end user/customer/his manager.

If functionality that seemed key when starting the project can be abolished midproject and replaced by new, more relevant requirements, that is a major advantage.

Also important is that mostly (e.g. like in scrum) each intermediate delivery should be nearly ready to be put into production. At the same time, the most urgent functions were developed first. So, in case the project is canceled because of some corporate decision, management is sure you will end up with something that will work and can be put in production.

3. Increase visibility on what’s is going on, and increase productivity

  1. Managers are usually interested by visibility agile brings, especially with scrum. It’s one of the most used selling point in the seminars that targets managers.
  2. Higher productivity is also commonly used to attract them as it is easy to demonstrate (thanks to visibility). Some agile evangelists promise them outstanding productivity from their existing employees. “What? I’m already pressing them like lemons and you tell me I can get even more?

Many managers use agile to crush their employee a little bit more and I’ve seen them using the burn down chart as a slacker hunting machine in one large company.

Result? Many team in distress. They thought agile would solve all their problems, but it did the exact opposite. The problem was elsewhere.

4. Visibility and ability to change quickly

  • Visibility or Succeed fast / Fail fast – We are a product development shop with 6 month to 24 month cycles. Iterative development with working, tested features did a better job of reflecting project status.
  • Change – In our environment, requirements and time tend to be fixed. But, the business on a too regular basis goes through rapid, jarring changes in direction. Iterative, visible development made it easier for the projects to change direction.
  • Story based requirements with iterative development made it easier to work with the business that didn’t always understand the technical aspects of the requirements or fully understand the business drivers of some of the details. In our past efforts, high level specifications or marketing requirement documents were not always sufficient. Now, as projects evolve, there can be some parallel market and customer research.
  • The process change came with a lot of other development attributes like TDD, automated versus manual testing, tighter testing cycles (We no longer have a QC group, just a QA group), and a higher appreciation and effort related to quality (we use a lot more tools and metrics).

Some great responses and food for thought here.

For those that do enjoy horoscopes, check out what two dudes did with data from horoscopes. You’ll find below a horoscope that applies to everyone on the planet.

“Data visualization master David McCandless and coder Thomas Winnigham have put together one, generic horoscope, fashioned from those archived on Yahoo Shine.

The above horoscope — which applies to everyone — is just one part of McCandless and Winnigham’s “Horoscoped” project, in which they used a Python script to screenscrape 22,186 horoscopes from Yahoo Shine into a spreadsheet. (You can check out the Python scripts they used on their website.)

From there, they analyzed the ‘scopes in a variety of ways, one of which revealed that about 90% of the words in the horoscopes were the same, a revelation that let them write the above prediction.” – Brenna Ehrlich

[HT: Mashable]

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