The Next Evolutionary Step for Agile
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Mobile Development and Agility
Last week I presented at the Melbourne and Sydney Innovate conferences, while there I was able to slip into a session that was presented by Jeffrey Hammond of Forrester Research and Leigh Williamson, IBM Rational Distinguished Engineer. It was a fantastic session and it really hit me that mobile will end the “should we adopt agile” conversation. To paraphrase Jeffrey Hammond from Forrester Research, organizations that have mobile on their roadmap will need to embrace agile delivery methods to succeed. The main reason for this is obvious to me; the mobile marketplace is probably the best large scale manifestation of the long tail economy. To remain competitive in this market, you must deploy new functionality in days not weeks and you must fix defects in hours not days. Think about it, if your favorite travel app isn’t working properly on your iPhone, what will you do? You’ll look for another one, like Hipmunk, and maybe it has new features or usability that you now can’t live without. You will drop the old app like a bad habit and never look back.
This poses the question, as mobile app development becomes mainstream and as agile methods are required for a successful mobile strategy, will the term agile become irrelevant? This would parallel something I heard Michio Kaku recently discuss, he believes the term computer will soon be eliminated from our vocabulary as computers have become so pervasive in our daily lives that we no longer use the word, is agile on the same path? Is this a new agile revolution? Or is it more Darwinian? and mobile development is forcing organizations to embrace agile to adapt?
Let the Agile Evolution Begin
With the rise of mobile development, for all intents and purposes the agile revolution has been won, agile methods of some sort are being used by a majority of delivery teams (72% according an Evans Data Corporation survey) and the beginning of a new wave is underway, the Agile Evolution. This is less of a revolution because agile is mainstream for the most part, the benefits are clear they’ve been demonstrated and generally accepted as the best way to deliver software. But to claim victory on such an overloaded term is probably not fair. Agile is different for every organization and the definition of agile is ambiguous. So let’s look at the term agile and what it really means.
Agile is mainly about transforming your organization’s culture and approach. Agile is NOT about implementing a prescribed development process and is certainly not about implementing a tool. Agile is a set of values that an organization adopts to deliver customer value faster, which includes working with stakeholders (business, customers or end users) more frequently to assure you deliver what they want. To allow this to happen you need to assure your teams are set up for success, this means providing:
To me these are the key attributes of an agile organization and serve as the table stakes for the organization of the future.
Survival of the Fittest
No one can implement agile overnight. It is a gradual shift, instilling new values takes time. It would be like asking a school that teaches in a traditional classroom style to move to an open classroom with customized learning plans for each child supported by new technology, over one summer. Without a herculean effort it’s not a fair request. Like this example, an agile transformation requires significant and ongoing training, consulting, coaching and investments in new technology. That being said, the faster an organization can effectively transform to agile and deliver faster and better solutions, the better off they will be in the long run. Beware, cutting corners and snake oil will not get you there faster, in fact shortcuts are probably the biggest reason companies fail at agile. Be very wary of those that combine the words easy and agile in the same sentence (unless they include the word not of course). It is not easy.
From my observations, mobility is in almost every organization’s future and an agile delivery approach will be a requirement for these organization to not only compete, but to simply remain relevant. One could argue that the Agile Evolution has been underway for some time, but it is now when the real natural selection will begin. With the new environmental factor of mobile accelerating the evolutionary process, the rate at which organizations adapt will determine their odds of survival.
Will your organization make the next evolutionary shift or face extinction?