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Agile videos across the spectrum

Natali Vlatko
TV image via Shutterstock

As we focus our attention on all things agile, we look at some videos that span the range of agile fandom and antagonism. From tips to improving your agile framework, to the opinion of its dangerous influence, these videos have it all.

Are you pro or against agile? Has it been a revolutionary framework for you, or do you just pick and choose which aspects you want to include in the workplace? Whatever your stance, this roundup of videos should pique your interest in the many aspects coverable within the world of agile programming.

Pro Agile

As one of the founders of the Agile Manifesto, Martin Fowler is a voice that is often followed and quoted in the agile world. In the below video, he teams up with Neal Ford of Thoughtworks to tackle the following question: Why does Agile software development work so well?

In this (partial) video, they provide advice and stress the importance of communication, feedback as a crucial part of software development, the importance of boosting the creativity of developers, and how introspection is essential to continually improving the project. We are still scouring the internet for Part 2!

For a more concise look at certain agile elements, Henrik Kniberg presents what he calls a 1 day product ownership course compressed into 15 minute animated presentation. “There’s obviously more to product ownership than this, so see this is a high level summary”. He even jams on his own guitar for the intro and outro musical bits.

Neal Ford’s session at W-JAX 2013 talks about the tension between architecture and design in agile projects, discussing two key elements of emergent design (utilising the last responsible moment and harvesting idiomatic patterns) and how to “de-brittlise” your architecture, so that you can play nicely with others.

This talk includes both proactive (test-driven development) and reactive (refactoring, metrics, visualisations, tests) approaches to discovering design, and discusses the use of custom attributes, DSLs, and other techniques for utilising them. The goal of this talk is to provide nomenclature, strategies, and techniques for allowing design to emerge from projects as they proceed, keeping your code in sync with the problem domain.

Another session from our W-JAX 2013 talks, this time featuring founder and CEO of 10gen and a core MongoDB committer, Dwight Merriman. Much has been made of scalability as a driver for choosing a database, but the choice of a database influences much more than the scaling architecture. Different database choices drive different data models which in turn influence the development process.

In this talk, Merriman draws on his experiences from DoubleClick, where he was founder and CTO, as well as his experiences founding Gilt Groupe, ShopWiki, and Business Insider, to discuss how the influence of the database on the development process and how making the right database choices can allow agile development.

Agile antagonists

Those who rise to become an Agile Enterprise do not automatically achieve greater competitiveness. Gone are the days when a team could be called agile by accomplishing five releases per year – today truly agile companies create multiple releases per day. The problem is that the majority of agile teams are tuned for speed, innovation and change, but few are focusing on actual results.

Stephen Burton of AppDynamics discusses this in his JAX-Keynote – what happens when companies become too focused becoming “Agile” and how this obsession can even make an end of the business. Stephen gives practical tips for developer teams so that they can handle agility properly.

Dan North says that Agile doesn’t scale. Does that mean you can’t deliver large-scale programmes using agile methods? Not at all. But to scale you need something else, something substantively different, something that North says the Agile Manifesto and the existing team-scale agile methods don’t even have an opinion about.

North has seen a handful of successful large-scale deliveries across multiple agile teams, multiple locations and multiple programmes start to look uncomfortably like those of traditional programmes, and involve phrases like delivery assurance, governance and portfolio management. They just approach them differently. What made them work?

North believes the challenge is getting large numbers of people to think in the same direction. Shared guiding principles, a clear vision and a common understanding enable what he calls “contextual consistency”. With this, North says that this one lever is the single greatest enabler of technology delivery at scale, and is at the heart of the thing we call empowerment.

For chrissake can we please sit down? This kind of phrase is likely to be heard from none other than Erik Meijer, known for his collaboration on C#, Visual Basic, LINQ, Volta and .NET. He had made a series of scathing criticisms of the agile ‘cancer’ at the Reaktor Dev Day in Helsinki 2014, which he summed up by saying that “Agile is a cancer that we need to eliminate from the industry”.

Too many developers are wasting their time talking about code, and not writing enough of it, claims Meijer, who also believes that “standups are the worst thing ever invented”. Check it out below.

And finally, to answer the questions revolving around the theme of “Why Agile Sucks”, a panel discussion by the speakers and participants of Agile India 2015 got together to help answer the most philosophical of phrases in agile programming. The panel was led by Naresh Jain and tries to address reasons why agile won’t work in certain companies.

Natali Vlatko
An Australian who calls Berlin home, via a two year love affair with Singapore. Natali was an Editorial Assistant for (S&S Media Group).

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