Agile is Gaining More and More Momentum.
With JAX London Autumn Edition 2010 coming up, we take a look back at the Agile Day of the first ever JAX London.
The Agile Day will feature the real-life experiences of people
with hands-on knowledge of agile practices: agile method
consultants, agile customers and agile developers. Attendees will
get advice on agile development practices and tools, and be able to
get their hands dirty, with a practical session on applying agile
The first JAX London Agile Day was hosted by ‘Agile Software
Development in the Large’ author, Jutta Eckstein. We caught up with
her back in February 2010, to get an insight into agile
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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
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
JAXenter: The Agile Manifesto was written back
in 2001 – do you consider this document to be widely adopted in
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
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.