Common Misconceptions about Agile Software Development

arafat

Nowadays agile philosophy is the de facto philosophy of software development. When we talk about software development, usually we mean agile software development. But a sad matter is that there are lots of misconceptions about agile among us, the software professionals. This article aims at unveiling these misconceptions.

Agile = Scrum

Scrum is the most popular agile software development process. We often use agile and scrum interchangeably. In various seminar and interview sessions, I ask people the difference between these two. Surprisingly, many of them failed to answer. The truth is, agile is a philosophy. There are many processes based on this philosophy, scrum is one of them. There are processes too.

Agile is a MUST

Agile is a proven philosophy. So you can follow this philosophy. But it does not mean that agile is a must for your organization. For small scale projects which can be done in one, two or three releases, you can just do fine without agile. Even this is not a must for large-scale projects too. There are many big companies including Samsung who are doing fine without agile. I personally vouch for agile but it does not mean that agile means always good and suitable for you. This is a matter of choice.

Standard process

As an agile consultant of some companies, the most common requests I face is that I am supposed to design a standard process for them, they will follow that process thoroughly in their organization. Remember, agile is NOT a process. There is no such thing called agile process. Agile is a philosophy, it focuses on people over process, working software over requirement docs and customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Agile has some other attributes too. Based on this nature of agile, there are several software development processes like scrum, TDD, kanban etc. When we talk about some fixed process that “has to be” followed that is NOT agile. The plan-driven approach is NOT agile. In agile, the team is supposed to choose which process they should follow for what tasks. Team is not supposed to be bound to follow some fixed standard process. If team is bound to follow it, then it is NOT agile. Wherever you see the phrases like “Agile Methodology”, “Agile Process” etc, you should understand that they do not understand agile.

Self-organized team

There are lots of misconceptions regarding this term “self-organized team”. Companies hire expensive agile consultants, arrange expensive training sessions and hope that their teams will be self-organized and will not be required to supervise. Though pretty much positive but actually non-realistic thinking. In practical, we see very few teams can reach the self-organized level. So the realistic expectation is to improve the degree of self-organization in a team. And of course, they need to be supervised and led. This leading or supervision is different from traditional meaning, in agile we call it servant leadership or servant supervision- I am not going to describe it as this is not our discussion topic for today. So be realistic and do not mess with the terminologies. If you are in a top position of your organization, your misunderstanding can harm interests of your organization.

Agile estimation

This is another common misconception to “derive a process” to estimate properly. As on waterfall, we cannot estimate correctly, so we think agile will help us to estimate precisely- if you think that, then you do not understand agile. Agile or waterfall or any other xyz cannot give precise estimation. Some processes based on agile suggest some ways to estimate. Through these processes your estimation will be “improved” but not will be “perfect”. After three to five iterations, when your team velocity and skills are determined for this specific project, then your estimation will be improved for later iterations – that’s it, nothing more, nothing less.

Applicable for all scenery

No matter how much popular agile is, this is not applicable for all scenery. To make agile successful, transforming your team is not only enough but also transformation is required for all other departments like finance, admin, management etc. Many a time, the team is not capable of following agile. This is a judgment call. There is no way to forecast whether or not agile is good or bad for your organization. You need to weight in all the parameters and then you have to closely see how it goes.

Increase of team velocity

Many of us think that if agile will increase team velocity up to a great deal. This may be or may not be true for your organization based on various factors. If you suddenly transform to agile, then your team velocity will more likely to be decreased than before for couples of months. Once they are habituated with agile, then it is supposed to be increased than any time before. But this is also dependent on various factors. Agile is a philosophy, this not some black & white process that you can follow blindly. Transformation to agile means more transformation into the psychological state than the physical state. if you can not unlearn your plan-driven mentality, then a mere apparent transformation to agile will bring you no good to mention.

Overnight transformation is possible

Transformation to agile requires time and effort. This is not something that can be achieved through a one day workshop or one-week training program. We can divide transformation to agile in 4 stages. I am not going to discuss these now, just know that to reach the basic level; it is required 9 to 12 months. This may sound strange to you, but this is a fact. For now, you can search it on Google, one day I will write about it.

Finale

Usually, misconceptions hurt more than no conception. So we better be careful and clarify our understanding. If you are in a leading position of your organization, then you cannot effort such misconceptions. So before taking any decision, you must have a clear understanding.

Arafat Ibn Sultan Riyadh is a seasoned product and project management professional and an agile coach. Moreover, he is a career counselor and motivational speaker. He is currently serving as the Product Manager at Bdjobs.com Ltd. He is cofounder and Strategic Consultant NWIT and Strategic Consultant Activation Ltd. He can be reached at arafatmist@gmail.com

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