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Agile Agile everywhere – not a definition to speak of PDF Print E-mail
Written by Allan Kelly   
AgileUnless you have spent the last 10 years away form the IT world you can’t have missed the rise of Agile software development. Countless books, journals, blogs and consultants are now devoted to furthering the use of Agile techniques.

Agile is apple pie. Everyone seems to favour it and many claim to be doing it. Even the Software Engineering Institute (originators of CMM and CMMI) have issued a paper showing how CMMI and Agile are complementary. But, who is actually doing Agile?

My own best estimates, little more than educated guesses really, suggest that between 5 and 15% of software development is now Agile. Some of these teams are practicing fully-fledged Scrum with a full selection of technical practices, like Test Driven Development (TDD), Continuous Integration and Refactoring. Other teams are attempting various forms of half baked Agile sometimes characterised as Wagile or WaterScrum.

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About the author: Allan Kelly helps companies navigate the adoption of Agile methods and assists the creation of a learning and improvement culture. He is the author of Changing Software Development: Learning to Become Agile as well as numerous articles and conference presentations.

Comments (4)
4 on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 04:09
allan kelly
The Agile manifesto is a good starting point to understand Agile and the motivations behind it but it is not enough.

The manifesto is a call to arms, it is a rallying point which was and the time, and still is, a great summary of values. However it is rather hard to disagree with. The values it sets down are values most IT professionals would agree with even if their actions are different. For this reason alone we need to advance the debate.

Nor does the Agile manifesto tell you what to do. Thus it is entirely possible to say "Of course I agree with working software over documentation but our organization needs documents to function" or "Of course I value people over tools but I have this one guy on my team..."

Add to this the fact that the manifesto is eight years old, our understanding of this "Agile thing" has moved on and I don't believe the manifesto is enough to define what is, and what is not, Agile.

Agile is a broad church of ideas, technologies, beliefs and theories. Ultimately it is aimed at making software development better. Thus we should measure Agility by the end result, not my belief in any particular values or adoption of particular practices.
3 on Wednesday, 23 September 2009 08:06
Scott Duncan
I disagree that there is no definition of "Agile" (with the capital 'A').

I believe the Agile Manifesto's Values and associated Principles constitute the definition of "Agile". The Manifesto was created by a group of people who came from different "lite" methods and represents what they felt was common in their beliefs about software development. To this set of beliefs, they attached the term "Agile."

The capitalized term did not exist related to software development before this point in Feb 2001. Thus, the Values and Principles define "Agile."

Of course, as Alistair Cockburn has said, because the Vs&Ps came from a number of pre-existing perspectives, this means there is no "center" to agile in terms of exact practices and techniques. The Vs&Ps, therefore, do not deal with prescribing behaviors at this level. (Scrum has become very popular for its framework simplicity and XP's technical practices are used by many. They are not,themselves, the definition of Agile, though.)

I have commented on this at a bit more length at http://agilesoftwarequalities.blogspot.com/2009/09/there-is-no-definition-of-agile-hooey.html
2 on Tuesday, 08 September 2009 09:32
Abrachan Pudusserry
Since most of the agile practices like SCRUM are value based, rather than rule based, most of the teams start based on the rituals like daily stand ups and sprint boards etc, and then over a period of time either fail miserably or graduate into value based implementations. Again organizations leveraging agile at the organizational level is very few (among large organizations), because of the redundant organizational levels.

Abrachan Pudusserry
Product Owner
1 on Monday, 07 September 2009 20:45
Daryl Kulak
Good article, Alan. Too many of us get hung up on whether we are following "true Agile," which, of course, is ridiculous. If we focus on agility (small a) and pick and choose the toolkits to get us there depending on the situation, we'll have more luck.

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