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Agile Methodology When Processes Clash with Principles

Narendran Thillaisthanam
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Narendran Thillaisthanam
In about a decade since Agile methodology’s introduction, it has gained huge acceptance amongst software developers and IT managers. According to a recent Forrester survey, roughly 35 percent of its respondents used Agile methodology1. There is absolutely no doubt that Agile methodology has crossed the chasm.
While Agile brings in significant benefits and cost-savings to the consumer, it also comes with significant challenges. Agile methodology is built on several key principles that are fundamental to the methodology3. A lot of companies rush to adopt Agile methodology ignoring these key principles as well as the cultural and technical nuances associated with it. What results is not controlled chaos, but utter chaos and stress.

Cultural Challenge: One of the fundamental principles of Agile is the concept of self-organizing teams. Teams of software engineers are empowered in unprecedented ways, reducing the role of project managers (e.g. scrum master) to one of facilitator4. Motivation and team work are central tenets to the process.

When project managers that are used to command and control the style of management are entrusted an Agile project, they continue to push their heavy handed management style, which flies in the face of Agile’s self-organizing principle.

Similarly, software engineers who are used to strong oversight and management are tested by the sudden empowerment and freedom that comes with Agile. Lack of documentation, lack of fine-grained planning, and once a day scrum calls work when there is enough team-work and motivation. Agile is a mind-set and every team-member has an equal role to fulfill.

Contracts and Outsourced Software Development: Several outsourcing vendors enter into legal contracts with the customers where the payments are tied to traditional waterfall model. A sample contract could read, “25 percent payment for requirements completion, 25 percent for architecture completion, and so on.”

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Reader's comments(1)
1:Good article Naren and you have encapsulated all the salient features crisply. From my experience, I think Agile is more suited to build a product and that too with some pitfalls as mentioned by you. The custom application development arena is embracing Agile in a big way but they definitely need to look in to the aspects as mentioned by you. I totally agree with you!
Posted by: Prakash Gurumoorthy - 05th Sep 2010
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