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Tuesday, May 23 • 15:45 - 16:45
Agile: Succeeding or Regressing

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Agile: Succeeding or Regressing? Are We Learning as a Profession?

Steven Fraser – Panel Impresario

Software development practices have evolved over the past 70 years beginning with the first stored computer program which ran on “The Manchester Baby”.  Since then a variety of approaches to industrial-scale software development by teams of professionals have emerged.  In 1970, Royce advocated the creation of software products with a disciplined engineering “Waterfall” process.  This evolved to “Structured Design” (Yourdon, 1979) and “Object Oriented Design” practices (Booch, 1982) – which lead to the emergence of iterative “Agile” processes with publication of the “Agile Manifesto” in 2001.

Over the years, David Parnas, Steve McConnell, Bertrand Meyer, and others have discussed the evolution of software as a profession – and more recently, Agile has become the target of critical analysis.  For example, see Dave (Pragmatic) Thomas’s presentation on the “Death of Agile” (viewable on YouTube).  

This panel will discuss whether agile is succeeding or regressing – and what metrics should be used to assess progress (in either direction).

Andrea Goulet 

Before we can answer if we're succeeding, we need to first ask ourselves that all-important question: What does success look like? If we're judging success based on adoption and awareness, there's little doubt that we've succeeded. It seems that nearly every company that builds software, from small startups to large enterprises, is familiar with the term. Agile has even made its way into pop culture. I laughed so hard when a character on HBO's sitcom Silicon Valley whipped out a ready-made Scrum board that he kept on hand to motivate his development team. 

Of course, there are always areas for opportunity and growth, too. I see so many teams who are struggling and as a curious observer, I like to figure out what the challenge is. To me, I see three key areas where we can improve. 

  1. Getting back to the fundamentals laid out in the manifesto and principles and asking ourselves what really matters.
  2. Empowering teams to change and adapt based on their own unique situation.
  3. Selling the value of Agile up the leadership chain and getting executives to understand the value Agile brings across an entire organization and not just with the software group.

Avraham Poupko

In many areas we are certainly succeeding. We are able to create very complex systems and have fun while doing so. However there have been quite a few regressions along the way, some of them devastating.

Part of our regression can be attributed to the capitalization of the word “Agile”. Once agile became a “thing” we started evaluating software and process by how Agile it is and not by how agile it is. In other words, we sometimes evaluate ourselves based on conformance and not based on performance. Are we learning as a profession? A resounding yes.  Are we learning the right things, and are we learning as fast as we can. Not always. But we are an open minded community interested in improving itself, so there is cause to believe that over time we will improve.

Andrea Provaglio 

From my perspective, we are succeeding with agility and stagnating with Agile. What we call Agile today has evolved from what it was 16 years ago when the Manifesto was published. The fundamental values and principles are still valid, but they are now reaching a wider audience and what we see today are different approaches to “doing Agile" rather than “being Agile” — the latter being a mindset to operate in complexity. With the evolution of Agile “methods”, came also confusion and a dilution the original term (probably inevitable when something goes mainstream). Which is why I believe that for us, long-standing practitioners, one of the responsibilities is to help clarify what agility is to those who approach it.

Silvana Wasitova

The short answer is succeeding, but that is not the whole picture. The more interesting questions are: how are we succeeding, how fast, and is agile the silver bullet. Startups are inherently more aligned with agile, but what about the established companies? The reality is that transition to agile is still laborious process for many, and at times painfully pits old habits and entrenched processes against the agile philosophy and values. This is an area that agile does not address: how to transition, how to adapt and adopt. More specifically, when established players fear they have something to lose, then agile is not very attractive. This is the area where more work still needs to be done, even today, 16 years after the Agile Manifesto was coined.

Claes Wohlin

In my view, it is not really about agile succeeding or regressing! It is about our ability to engineer software, and hence it is not about plan-driven development versus more lightweight development. There is far too much focus on specific approaches, methods and tools; we should take a step back and look at the big picture. The key questions are more related to the second question in the title of the panel, i.e. “Are we learning as a profession?” And even more importantly, how can we ensure that we learn as a profession? If not learning, are we even a profession? 

The inception of agile and lean has been very important, since they have helped resurrecting the importance of the human aspects in software development. Furthermore, the focus on working code and customer involvement is very important. However, agile or lean is not a panacea for software development. So, what can we learn from the evolution of software engineering? After all, we turn 50 years in 2018. 

In my opinion, the success of engineering software depends on our ability to manage our intellectual capital. We must understand the needs for succeeding with a task, a project or any development activity resulting in a system, product or service. Plan-driven development is mostly focused on the organizational capital, while agile development is more focused on the human capital and the social capital. However, success is about an appropriate balance between the different types of capitals. How do we balance human, social and organizational capital in a specific situation to succeed? This is in my view the key question we need to address for the future.

avatar for Steven Fraser

Steven Fraser

Impresario & Principal Consultant, Innoxec (Innovation Executive Services)
Steven Fraser is based in Silicon Valley and has served as an innovation catalyst with global influence for HP, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Nortel. In addition to a year as a Visiting Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI) consulting on domain engineering... Read More →

avatar for Andrea Goulet

Andrea Goulet

CEO, Corgibytes, LLC
Andrea Goulet is the CEO of Corgibytes, a software development shop dedicated to maintaining and modernizing software applications and has been named by LinkedIn as one of the Top 10 Professionals in Software Under 35. She’s the founder of LegacyCode.Rocks and hosts a podcast dedicated... Read More →
avatar for Avraham Poupko

Avraham Poupko

Senior System's Architect, L&T Technical Services
I am an Architect and leader of a group of Architects in L&T's Center of Excellence in Jerusalem. I am fascinated by the ways by which people get together to create software. The idea of minds joining to create something "abstract" such as software is one of the great wonders of... Read More →
avatar for Andrea Provaglio

Andrea Provaglio

Strategic IT Consultant, Agile Organizational Coach, andreaprovaglio.com
I help IT organizations to implement better ways of doing business; and I coach executives, managers and teams who want to improve technically and relationally. My main focus is on helping companies to transition to organizational and cultural models that are better suited to the... Read More →
avatar for Silvana Wasitova

Silvana Wasitova

Agile Coach, Wasitova
Silvana helps teams and companies achieve better results through applying Agile values and practices. A Scrum practitioner since 2005, Silvana lives and breathes the agile value of “People over Process” - and brings that to the forefront of her coaching approaches while still... Read More →
avatar for Claes Wohlin

Claes Wohlin

Professor and Dean, Blekinge Institute of Technology
Claes is a professor in software engineering and dean of the Faculty of Computing at Blekinge Institute of Technology. In 2011, he was elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. His main research interest include agile and lean software development, and evidence-based... Read More →

Tuesday May 23, 2017 15:45 - 16:45
Ballroom B 1st Floor

Attendees (38)