Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Making Sense of Agility

Just like dancing...only with business
In the next few blogs, I want to discuss the corporate values of my organization.  I have four guiding principles which shape how I want to run this business they are; agility, growth, development, and respect.  Today, I want to share with you my feeling about agility. 

In 2009 I was working for a dysfunctional family business, the technology staff was banished into the server room and was not allowed to do much interaction with the rest of the business.  When we were interacting it was usually to get reprimanded for not delivering what the rest of the business wanted.  It was like living in a Kafka story.  Introduced into this ugly environment was agile project management.  I was skeptical but decided to give it a try.  Much to my surprise, I liked it and I quickly became a convert. 

For those not familiar with Agile and Scrum, it is a better and faster way to deal with software projects created by developers and project managers at a ski trip in Utah.  They even have their own manifesto which is much easier to understand than the one Karl Marx cooked up.  It reads as follows:

·         Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
·         Working software over comprehensive documentation
·         Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
·         Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
Thanks to Agile, it was now possible to put in place processes which helped the business user rather than get in the way.  Documentation is still necessary in Agile but could be changed to meet customer needs.  Changes no longer caused controversy because they were handled in a judicious manner.  Finally, developers and business users had to work together to get things done because they both depended on one another. 
In the course of developing my web application, I have made several major revisions to the product.  Each correction or improvement, never say change, did make the software better.  It also created an understanding between the developers and business users.  The developers set the deadlines for a project while the business users set the priorities of what needed to get done.  Each side had equal power and they both developed a mutual respect for each other’s challenges.  Best of all, we had working software which met expectations. 

In this business environment, being agile is going to be a competitive advantage as we strive to meet customer demand and make things happen.  I would rather have something people can use that is improving than vapor ware which promises to be perfect, whatever that means.