Thursday, November 24, 2005

Agile Letter to The Guardian

I never really believed it was worth writing to newspapers, however, I was irritated by an article by Ed Hasted in the Technology Guardian sufficiently to respond. I got a call from Bernard Horan to tell me that they'd published an excerpt from it on the letters page!

So now I believe in writing letters to newspapers - look out Mr. Murdoch!

Pity they didn't put my contact info in, that would have been interesting...


At Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:06:00 pm, Anonymous Crispin said...

Would you post the entire letter please Johnny? The excerpt they have published certainly makes several very valid points but doesn't seem too closely related to the original. Is Bernard eXtreme? (He certainly looks it!)

At Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:12:00 pm, Blogger John S Nolan said...

They did publish an edited verison. Here's the full text:

As much as I applaud Ed's article highlighting the appalling waste of money that happens due to "failed" IT projects, I would challenge the proposition that this is due to the poor composition of the project team and its skills. I would suggest that it is due to projects spending too much time before trying to return some value.

I do not believe there have been any measures of whether having a fully constituted team by Ed's definition (marketing, finance, etc) actually helps make a successful project. Possibly a project has a greater chance of succeeding when the right skills are at hand, but in my experience even well resourced projects can fail to deliver any value.

Over the last decade there has been a growing movement of Agile Development in software, which stretches beyond the pure programming tasks into product management and customer management. Its basis is the collective experience of seasoned professionals who have succeed and failed to deliver system over the last 30 years. Agile Devleopment is based on doing the best-practices that have been shown to work, and not doing the things that waste time and money and lead to failure.

One of the key tenets is that rapid iterative delivery every few weeks, closely involving the users, leads to delivering value quickly and often. In this way the potential wastage is the cost of a few weeks work and not several years work. Furthermore, that value can be realised by the user of the system whilst the remain features are developed. Furthermore it gives the person paying for the project a way of visibly measuring progress, and the ability to say "stop". Conventional "one stage at a time" approaches always promise the value at the end, so the investor in the project is afraid of saying "stop" and not getting a return.

In the article Ed says, "There is no magic bullet to put software development right. If there were, we would have found it years ago". We did - we just didn't know it. Agile is not a Magic Bullet, but its a more effective way of delivering what is needed in a value oriented, less wasteful way.

At Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:18:00 pm, Anonymous Rupert said...

Bravo, Johnny. Well written. Would you agree that money is wasted on IT projects because too many IT people spend most of their time surfing and writing self opinionated shite about how great they are and their wonderful knowledge of the software industry?

At Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:32:00 pm, Blogger John S Nolan said...

Hmmm - I wonder if I should take that personally?


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