Is Agile right for you? Top 5 considerations when implementing Agile Methodology

11 April 2011
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We often hear in software development circles how Agile development is taking hold of the industry.  Created as a grassroots framework by developers for developers, the origins of Agile methodology began 10 years ago with a group of progressive software developers at a Utah ski lodge that established the Agile Manifesto aimed to establish a more inclusive, democratic and efficient system for running software development projects.  As result, multiple Agile methodologies emerged including Crystal Clear, Scrum and Extreme Programming all designed to establish self-governing project teams that place equal accountability on all members that touch the project.

As this is a radically different approach to managing project teams, software development groups need to be extra careful when deploying an Agile framework in their organizations in which teams are used to be carefully managed and monitored every step of the way.  The truth is, there are a number of considerations that software groups need to examine to ensure that the proposed changes of Agile are successful and not detrimental to an already existing process.

Here are my 5 top considerations in helping you determine whether Agile methodology is right for your development group or not:

1)    Cultural Match – One of the biggest reasons a project management framework can fail is due to the lack of fit with an organization’s culture.  Agile environments are self-governing, customer facing and democratic by nature.  Any development group looking to adopt Agile must first ask them self:  Are these principles somewhat in line with the values and direction of our company’s leadership?  If they are in complete opposition, chances of success and organizational support are minimal.  The last thing you want to do is start off on the wrong foot!
2)    Organizational Buy-in – Most project management frameworks can succeed with just leadership buy-in.  Although a cultural fit may exist, Agile requires complete buy-in for the ground up.   Every cog in the wheel depends on its success.  From the customer down to the developer Agile teams place accountability on all team members.
3)    Change Management – Is your organization ready for change?  Since Agile methodology will require change, it is critical there is a change management strategy in place to mitigate risk and ensure a smooth transition from the “old” way of doing things to the “new” way of doing things.
4)    Training – Agile methodology requires an end to end understanding of its framework and philosophy from the ground up.  Since Agile methodologies heavily involve all project members in driving this process your varied team members needs to be well versed in the entire process and their expected contribution.  An ad hoc approach will likely fail.
5)    Collaboration – The cornerstone of effective Agile projects is the concerted effort and system in place to effectively collaborate on ideas and progress with both internal and external stakeholders.  Not only do you have to ask your self if there is an adequate internal communications strategy in place, but more importantly you need to validate if your customers are bought in to their heavy involvement in their development projects.

To learn more about my thoughts on Agile methodology, please refer to my recent web cast (below) and white paper on the subject.  As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

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