The Agile Executive

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Archive for July 26th, 2009

Running for the Agile Alliance Board

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I am running for the Agile Alliance board. Here is my position statement:

Agile to me is about finding my voice. For most of my professional career I was entrusted with developing and bringing to market large scale enterprise software systems. Fulfilling and rewarding that so doing was, rarely had I experienced the great excitement that comes from the pursuit of a bigger purpose. Over the past few years Agile has been giving me this extra gratification. I feel privileged and fortunate to participate in and contribute to a movement that has the potential to transform quite a few industries.

My voice has been expressed in various speaking engagements, research notes by the Cutter Consortium, blog posts in The Agile Executive, and tweets under the handle agile_exec. I am primarily concerned with elevating Agile to the enterprise level, making certain Agile “islands” scale up, scale out and scale downstream. Moreover, I push toward devising business models that utilize the power of Agile instead of shoe horning Agile methods to fit arcane business designs.

As an Agile Alliance board member, I will focus on mainstreaming Agile methods with an eye toward making a significant economic impact. I share the concern Diana Larsen expressed in a recent Agile Roots panel: Agile as a term has crossed the chasm, but Agile as a method might not. The main obstacle IMHO is that our business fabric has not caught up with Agile methods. Software capitalization and Agile contracts are two good examples of areas which are not yet where they need to be. I plan to address both, and then some, if I get elected.

If we as a movement succeed in making Agile cross the chasm, the economics of software, of products in which software is embedded and of business processes that utilize software could change dramatically. As software is becoming pervasive, Agile software has the potential to become a low cost input in our economy. The macro-economic effect of this descending cost of software could be as powerful as that of the prosperity ultra cheap oil (as energy source) produced during the period 1908-1971. I am committed to doing my bit toward this worthy goal through the Agile Alliance.

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Written by israelgat

July 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Threads from Washington, DC

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Rally’s July 23 Agile Success Tour in Washington, DC was somewhat unique demographically. About 50% of participants work for the government. Moreover, many of the commercial enterprises represented in the event derive a significant amount of their revenues from federal government contracts. The Agile challenges encountered by these folks reflect practices that are not necessarily applicable to “pure” commercial environment. For example, one of the participants asked me about Agile for a project of 500 developers/testers in which her company is the prime contractor for 100 subcontractors! (Recommendation: must devise a business design enabling her company to profitably invest in laying a joint Agile infrastructure across all these subcontractors. Such infrastructure leads to standardization of the Agile data. Click here for details).

In spite of the different demographics, most of the Agile issues brought up in DC were quite similar to those expressed in previous Agile Success Tour events. The bureaucracy with which various Agile champions in DC need to deal with might be stricter (due to security/confidentiality aspects of much of the development carried out in DC), but the underlying needs and dynamics are not really different from those in other cities in which Success Tour events were held.

Here is a sample of enlightening threads I listened to or participated in during the event:

  • The business fabric has not quite caught up with Agile methods. In particular, Agile contracts are not yet where they need to be. The costs associated with “ECOing the contract” each time a change in requirements is made offset the methodical benefits of Agile. We need to find a way to “encode” Agile principles in contracts.
  • In pitching software methods to their executives, Agile champions need to go beyond the benefits of Agile. Risk and risk mitigation are of equal importance. See The View from the Executive Suite for detailed guidance on the subject.
  • The benefits of Agile have to be expressed in terms of the business of the business. One has to go beyond capturing “just” the operational benefits and address financial and business benefits. Peter Drucker’s famous quip “Companies make shoes!” applies. Click here for examination of the quip in the Agile context.
  • Innovation through affordable experimentation is an Agile benefit that is under-represented in many discussions Agile champions hold. See the new edition of Jim Highsmith‘s Agile Project Management for an excellent discussion of this critical benefit.
  • Agile is about uncertainty, not about complexity. To demonstrate the power of Agile, choose a project of high uncertainty. Complexity in such a project depends on your risk tolerance – it could be either low or high. Be aware that various issues related to complexity might manifest themselves on the surface as process issues. See Uncertainty, Complexity, Correctness for an in-depth discussion of the subject.

Next stops of the Agile Success Tour “train” are in Boston, Chicago, Seattle and London. Stay tuned…

Written by israelgat

July 26, 2009 at 6:01 pm