Agile is gaining more and more momentum.

With this in mind, JAXenter caught up with some of the speakers at JAX London, to give you a sneak-preview of what to expect from the three-day conference......

JAXenter: You are track host of the Agile Day at JAX London, and were therefore responsible for defining all of the sessions. What overall experience did you try to provide for Agile Day attendees?

Jutta Eckstein: The Agile Day covers as many topics as it provides details on specific subjects! Rachel Davies will shed light on the secrets of coaching agile teams to self-organise. Roman Pichler will explain how to prevent the product backlog from turning into chaos, and how to steer iterations over the long run. Jamie Allsop and myself will share our experiences of applying agility to distributed projects. Kevlin Henney will talk about finding the ideal processes and tools to support an agile team. Keith Braithwaite and Allan Kelly will look into state-of-the-art agile development; what we have learned along the way; and how the future might look. As you can see, the diversity of topics allows us to explore agile development from different perspectives, and the participants will benefit from the various experiences of the speakers.

JAXenter: At JAX London you're holding a session about the importance of trust in agile development, and ways to build, maintain and avoid damaging trust. Trust is obviously an important factor in all business relationships – but why do you consider it to be particularly crucial in agile development?

Jutta Eckstein: My talk focuses on communication, trust and collaboration in distributed development. These factors are important in all business relationships, but are frequently overlooked. To my knowledge, agile is the only software development approach that accepts that communication and trust are essential for success. And as many studies have discovered; trust, communication and collaboration are essential for successful distributed development. Global development and agility complement one another.

JAXenter: The Agile Manifesto was written back in 2001 – do you consider this document to be widely adopted in 2010?

Jutta Eckstein: The Agile Manifesto is widely accepted as the guideline for agile development. It is a set of values and guiding principles that help teams design an individual process to support their specific needs. The Agile Manifesto was never intended to be adopted, but to be adapted to the needs of the individual team, project, organisation and setting. And it still serves that purpose well. It actually serves that purpose so well that other communities have copied it: there is now a manifesto for software engineering, cloud computing and SOA.

JAXenter: Agile methods can be hugely beneficial to a project, but not all agile projects are successful. In your opinion, what are the three key factors that can make or break an agile project?

Jutta Eckstein: One of the most important factors for success, is also the biggest trap: frequent feedback from different levels. For example, feedback about developed functionality, customer acceptance, quality, estimates, etc.... This feedback makes it possible to identify problems quickly. Dierk Koenig (who is also a speaker at JAX London) once defined agile development as a 'problem detector.' In my opinion, this is a positive thing. I can only address problems if I'm aware of them. Yet, often this isn't properly leveraged. Sometimes people don't even want to acknowledge the problems.

For example – an agile team measures its development velocity. Thus, it's absolutely transparent how much a team can deliver per iteration. This velocity is used to forecast (and verify) the remainder of the project. It might reveal that the team cannot deliver everything that's requested, by the given deadline. If this is the case, management should clarify with the customer which features will be delivered by the deadline, and which features will have to be postponed until a later date. Yet, very often management ignores the predictions of development velocity; doesn't pre-warn their customers; and continues to promise that the impossible is possible.

Agile development requests transparency and honesty – especially towards the customers.

JAXenter: To many, 2001 was the year of the 'agile movement.' That was almost a decade ago: is agile still relevant in 2010?

Jutta Eckstein: In 2001 the term agile was "created" - for software development. Although XP and Scrum had been around for a while, in 2001 agile was still mainly restricted to early adopters. Nowadays, agile is gaining more and more momentum and entering a broader market. This is due to changes in the market – at least in many domains. For a lot of companies it is no longer possible to clarify the requirements one year or more before the actual delivery. The reason is that during that year, their competitor may have swamped the market with features that'll put their company out of business. Thus, companies have to react quickly to market demands, customer feedback and their competitors. Agile development enables you to do exactly that.

Jutta Eckstein will give two talks on 22nd February 2010 at JAX London. Full details of all the talks at JAX London are available at the conference website.

Jutta Eckstein
Jutta Eckstein

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