When #agile isn’t the best thing for the client

I am presenting with two other friends on Agile in a non-Agile environment. Some of our first discussions on the matter was commenting on how the topic itself was confrontational and somewhat elitist. Almost putting people would could do more pure Agile above those that had to compromise on how they implemented Agile. In many situations, I had seen the discussion of these projects being referred to ‘bastardizations’ of Agile. How dare we do less than what was written in the books? How dare we do less than what was proposed by the experts?

Our first thought was to again reinforce that Agile is about finding better ways, no matter where you are on the Agile/Waterfall continuum. Our second that was to reinforce that using Agile in a non-Agile environment should not be viewed as a lesser implementation of Agile. As long as the client is getting the most value from the application of Agile, it should be viewed as successful as a more pure Agile project.

What is Agile at its heart?

When we discussed what Agile is at its heart, we came up with two things:

  1. Reducing Inventory (Whether they be documents, features, or wasted processes)
  2. Shorten Feedback Loops (On deliverables and on the use of features in Production)

Who decides Value?

Often times I believe we as Agile professionals get caught up in determining what is valuable for our clients. This was a major fault with the Waterfall processes, and I fear Agile in falling into the same trap. In the past, Waterfall projects had less frequent interactions with clients and the projects and professionals were expected to make decisions for the business. One of the first benefits of Agile that I saw was placing the full determination of priority and value clearly back into the hands of the client. For too long, projects had wrestled the full determination or priority and value away from the clients and the processes Software Development projects used were considered mandatory and not open for debate.

But now I fear that we are slipping back into that black and white Worldview. But instead of the Software Development professionals informing the client that we know what is best for them, Agile Software Development professionals are informing other Software Development professionals that we know what is best for them. And if some projects and professionals are not as Agile, they clearly have bastardized Agile.

Three statements I heard in the last week were:

  • Business Analysts have no value
  • Estimates have no value
  • Documentation has no value

From whose perspective? I would be hard pressed to find any client I have worked with in the past twenty years that would agree with these statements. I agree that doing documentation and estimates excessively can provide limited value, but in the end the person that determines that value is the client.

The statement that we came up with for the presentation speaks for itself:
“More Agile processes can deliver less value for some clients.”

 We present at the Agile Winnipeg Users Group on May 10th. Hope to see you there and hear your questions and thoughts.


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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