Agile Evolves

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Categories: Agile, PMI

by Cyndee Miller

Agile is the punk rock of project management. After years of living on the fringe, it’s officially gone mainstream—much to the joy of some and the utter dismay of others.

Like punk, it was built around a call to disrupt the status quo.

When a group of software programmers wrote the agile manifesto 16 years ago, the big goal was to embrace change: “to be aware of changes to the product under development, the needs and wishes of the users, the competition, the market and the technology,” Andy Hunt, a co-author of the agile manifesto, told PM Network last year.

While that purpose still holds true, the agile club is no longer limited to software developers, startup leaders and waterfall haters. An HPE survey showed agile’s ascendancy from anti-establishment to mainstream really took off in the past five years, with a significant adoption inflection point occurring around 2010. And check out the current numbers: Ninety-four percent of the survey respondents in the latest VersionOne State of Agile survey said their organizations practiced agile. PMI recently partnered with Agile Alliance on an Agile Practice Guide.

Some of this comes down to the business world’s obsession with digital transformation, which 42 percent of execs say they’ve begun, according to a 2017 Gartner survey. As Jason Bloomberg, president of Intellyx, wrote: Companies are increasingly going agile “to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them.”

Take South Africa’s Standard Bank. Facing competition from a rapidly expanding fintech sector, this 155-year-old bastion of financial service embarked on a multiyear digital transformation—with a shift to agile software dev at the center, according to McKinsey.

Not everyone, however, was onboard. I know, shocker, right? To change hearts and minds, the company’s CTO and his team held town hall meetings to explain their logic and set targets for the transition, gave teams autonomy to make decisions on how to go about their day-to-day functions, and co-located team members for better collaboration.

So far, so good. In early agile engagements, Standard Bank reported productivity increases of up to 50 percent and unit-cost reductions of up to 70 percent per function point.

But for some, agile’s entrance into the mainstream has given rise to a new challenge: the dilution of the very term. Mr. Hunt told PM Network the word has become “sloganized” and is “meaningless at best, jingoist at worst.”

In that same article, Jordi Teixido, PMP, COO at Strands, Barcelona, Spain, said: “Agile is wonderful when you’re really iterating and collaborating, but it’s also a refuge for mediocre practitioners who are unable to document or express their requirements or forecast what they want to build. If you don’t follow the rules of the game in waterfall, everyone knows it. But in agile, that’s harder to tell from the outside—and because of that, some people use agile on projects that would be far better under waterfall.”

What do you think? Is your organization using more agile? And do companies have a grasp on what the term really means?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: September 07, 2017 05:14 PM | Permalink

Comments (12)

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I do find that some people think that agile allows them to be sloppy.

As a PM, I constantly challenge estimates given me by the developer. In Scrum, the whole team comes up with the estimate. How can you (Scrum master?) ensure that they are being exact, rather than padding estimates?

From my point of view, agile practise does ask for a lot of discipline in a team, if one is taken a serious approach towards the agile values and agile mindset. Agility has its place in adaptive envrionments, but the overall project management process still remain, but must be executed in an agile way of working. The book "The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility" explains this in an execellent way. Applying agile practise (also in a hybrid approach like in SAP Implementation projects) is too me far from "Punk in project management". To me it is simply applying common sense.

re this: "Agile’s entrance into the mainstream has given rise to a new challenge: the dilution of the very term. Mr. Hunt told PM Network the word has become “sloganized” and is “meaningless at best, jingoist at worst.”

So its no longer cool to be cool....dammit!

Unfortunately, it can be used as an excuse to be less adamant on proper documentation and typical project standards. I think companies understand but implement something that they feel will work within their organization.

Go back a generation, to when Pat Boone was trying to sing Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," for a better metaphor. The abduction of the Agile vocabulary by giant consulting firms has been a driving force in reducing what was once a programmer-led movement into a Dilbert cartoon. The Deloitte "Agile placemat" is the most horrific example, but there are dozens of complexification consulting product pitches out there.

The current project I'm on is about 6 months long and I would consider it a mix of waterfall and agile. Agile because we focus on people over processes, bringing real value early, open to changes, etc.... but we still try to be detailed with traditional documentation (which should still be used somewhat in agile).

Agile needs to be partnered with Waterfall to form a hybrid approach to include discipline to guide the project. Agile by itself is a recipe for disaster.

While Agile approach does suit software and design/ development based projects more, a traditional approach is still and will continue to be relevant for construction and manufacturing industry.
A project manager should have skills of both approaches and should also be able to implement a hybrid model where feasible to maximize advantages of both approaches where feasible.

I agree with a lot of the other comments that their is a misconception of what agile is. A lot of old-schoolers think it will take them back to the days where there was less accountability and less planning. Shooting from the hip is not what agile is about.

My company likes to mix and match still...hybrid project management they call it. I think its just a discomfort with jumping all in to a newer way of doing things. It's not a critic though, I get that there are good things to take from traditional project management, but in IT, we have to be quick on our feet.

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