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Agile Reflections for 2009; Predictions for 2010

12.30.2009
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Software development methodologies, like the technologies they produce, have have continued their march forward.  2009 saw some significant changes in how companies develop software.  Scrum, XP, and Kanban have emerged as the three core means to agility, people are realizing that most companies need more than one methodology, agile is becoming a means - not an end, and more project managers are deciding that waterfall just doesn't cut it.  DZone spoke with several leaders in the Agile and Lean communities and asked them, "What are some of the biggest changes and/or discoveries you've seen in the Agile software development space over the course of 2009?  How do you predict software development methodologies will evolve in 2010?"  Here's what they had to say:


Alistair Cockburn

Agile Manifesto Co-Creator
"I'm bad at predictions, but am able to notice the past. The three big changes in the agile world in 2009 were the splintering of Scrum, the proliferation of certification programs and the rise of Lean and Kanban.
 
In late 2009, Ken Schwaber left the ScrumAlliance, which he founded, and went off to Scrum.org. This put the Scrum juggernaut in an odd position, with two competing schools of Scrum and two competing certification programs. Up until that split, the ScrumAlliance had a nearly total dominance of the agile certification space with its 2-day Certified ScrumMaster certificate.
 
2009 saw the introduction of a number of competing certificates, from official project management groups to random groups of people. With the split of Scrum, the certification space in 2010 will be much more open. Expect to see many kinds of certification programs show up.
 
2009 also marked lean and kanban ideas' coming-out in major force into the software world, with workshops, conferences and panels - and of course, the beginnings of a certificate-producing program. Expect to hear more from these groups in 2010."
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Johanna Rothman

Agile 2009 Conference Chair
"Over the past year, the biggest change is that we can successfully adapt agile to work in many organizations, on many kinds of products, with different kinds of teams. I've certainly been pleasantly surprised by how some organizations have made agile work with distributed teams and with programs (collections of projects that have valuable result).

Here's what I think is going to happen: A large number of organizations will try to install command-and-control agile, and then wonder why it's not the next silver bullet.

The organizations that embrace self-organizing teams and adaptation to change will succeed. The ones that demand management control instead of management leadership will lose. Maybe not all at once, but certainly over time."
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David Anderson

Pioneered Kanban for Software engineering,
President of David J. Anderson & Associates and VP at Lean Software & Systems Consortium

"I think in 2009 the most significant thing is the growth of the Kanban Community in a number of different aspects.  We've got this online community, we've got people showing up at conferences with case studies, and we've got almost ten tool vendors working on solutions for the market.  There's Kanban support in the VersionOne tool, Rally plans to do something but we haven't seen anything yet, and there are six startup companies who've emerged with Kanban tools.  Others tools are TargetProcess, SilverCatalyst, LeanKit Kanban, Agile Zen, RadTrack, Greenhopper for Jira, Kanbanery, plus a Kanban board plugin for FogBugz, and an open source Kanban process template for Team Foundation Server by Martin Danner & Eric Landes.  That is a huge change from 2009.  

For 2010, the trend I'm seeing is that Kanban has really tipped in the agile market, such that the agile coaches are now queueing up to attend Kanban classes or coaching workshops and learn as much as they can.  In 2010 these people will want training to find out: 'What is Kanban? How do you use it?  How do you introduce it?  How do you make it successful?'  The reason for this is that they're running into difficulties with established agile methods.  It doesn't always work and they want to have an extra tool in their toolkit.  I've set up a couple of these classes for next year, and the first one sold out almost immediately and the second one is almost sold out.  I'm doing classes in South Africa, one in Sweden, probably one in Brazil, and I'm looking to do some more in Europe and elsewhere in America.  The Agile community clearly realizes that there's something important going on with Kanban, and that it helps them solve some problems that, so far, they haven't had an answer to.  I think that's going to be one of the significant stories for 2010."
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Henrik Kniberg

Agile & Lean coach at Crisp
"There's been a preconceived notion of what an agile method is: that it's pretty much Scrum and XP.  It's become a de facto standard and now it seems like people are starting to break the bonds and realize that that's just one way of doing it, it's not the only way.  We have to thank David Anderson a lot for that, by being the guy who dares to raise his voice and say, 'Hey guys, you don't have to do it this way just because people usually do it that way.'  

It seems like we've matured as an industry.  People are digging up old models and asking how they can help us.  Another trend is that people are starting to realize that agile itself isn't a goal.  Agile is a means.  
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Mike Cottmeyer

Agile Project Coach, PMP Certified Project Manager, VP at Pillar Technology
"2009 was an interesting year for the agile development community. We witnessed the Scrum community in turmoil, the Lean and Kanban communities come together and gain mindshare, and now the PMI has even formed an Agile community of practice.  I am concerned that as we've grown, it seems we have become less united around our core values and principles, and more divided along practices and methodology.  I hope that does not prove to be the legacy of 2009." 

In the coming year, I'd like to see the community focus on creating a bigger tent.  I'd like to see us begin to understand, and better articulate the core problems we are trying to solve, and more open to situationally specific strategies around solving them.  I believe the next frontier for agile adoption is at the enterprise level.  We'll need to focus our discussion of value higher in the organization and we'll need to draw from many schools of thought to make it work.  Scrum won't be enough.   

I believe that the agile of the future will be a blend of Scrum and XP and Kanban and Lean... I believe that we'll need aspects of the Agile Unified Process and DSDM.  We'll have to reconsider the role of architects.  We'll need to embrace project management.  We'll need managers in general to move our larger organizations forward.  We'll have to trust them to become good stewards of the organizations we've put under their leadership.  

To deliver on the promise of the truly agile enterprise, we'll need to broaden our perspective and develop incremental, holistic strategies that are focused toward delivering value at all levels of the organization." 
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Mark Lines

Co-Founder, Unified Process Mentors
"This year has seen the continued increase in adoption rate of agile development techniques in our industry.  In my experience, teams that have used agile practices on their projects has said “they would never go back” to previous plan-driven and overly ceremonious processes.  Software development has never been more interesting for those of us who enjoy the dynamic and collaborate approaches that agile advocates.  When I was a developer working on waterfall projects years ago, I swore that I would never be a project manager.  I had no interest in pursuing that career path, no matter how much it paid.  It seemed that PMs were always miserable.  Their days were spent running status meetings, hiring and firing, performance reviews, arguing with users on scope issues, writing up change requests, and updating elaborate project plans in Microsoft Project. Boring!  These days, running agile iterative projects is so much more fun, and I love project management.  I coach PMs to “get out from behind the desk” and work with their teams.  Project Management is better termed “project leadership” as we are not directing teams and assigning team members tasks in a command and control style.  Rather, we are more like a conductor of an orchestra, guiding the team as they collectively work with the goal of delivering shippable, working software at the end of each iteration.
 
Project Leadership on agile projects is more challenging than Project Management on waterfall projects.  As a PM on a waterfall project, I only have to worry about one discipline at a time.  For instance, I may be in a 3 month requirements definition phase of the project.  All we do every day is write requirements.  Boring, but easy to manage.  Then, when the requirements are signed off, we spend a few months doing analysis specifications (whatever they are), and so on.  While it is easy to manage these projects, it is difficult to be actually successful.  The risks related to deferring critical aspects of the project such as testing, integration and customer feedback inevitably result in grief later on.
 
Despite a large body of empirical evidence to suggest that large scale, plan-driven, waterfall projects do not work, many if not most organizations still fund and manage their projects in a waterfall fashion.  There is still huge resistance at the management levels to abandon large scale plan-driven projects.  Project Management Offices tend to treat software development projects like any other project and demand detailed plans and estimates.
 
Recent ideas from the agile camp such as “Lean Thinking” offer some very interesting ideas for delivering value to stakeholders much quicker and more frequently than other approaches.  Years ago I wrote about breaking large projects in corporate environments into smaller projects and treating them like regular releases.  See the article “Effective governance practices for Iteration Software Development” at upmentors.com for more information on this approach.  I have helped companies adopt this approach and the effects have been dramatic.
 
I believe that 2010 will be another year of increased adoption rates of agile practices.  However, until management has the courage to apply some of these techniques on their projects, there will always be friction between management and those practitioners that understand the flawed approaches of plan-driven development and wish to adopt these wonderful agile ideas."
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Mary Poppendieck

Foremost Lean Expert
"The biggest change I have seen in the last year is a keen interest on the part of managers - and increasingly senior managers - in understanding what they need to do to make agile software development successful. It became increasingly obvious that agile is not just a "technical approach," it is a way of thinking about how work gets done, and it involves many disciplines across the organization.

I expect that in 2010, more people will realize that software development, and the methodologies that support it, are not the thing to worry about.  Software is part of a much bigger picture, and thinking about software development in isolation has been a big part of the "Software Problem" in the first place."
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Joshua Kerievsky

CEO, Industrial Logic Inc.
"2009 has seen a great year of advancements in Agile.  Lean principles and practices have helped management and others truly "get" Agile's value proposition, Kanban has proven itself to be a strong and viable alternative to Scrum, Continuous Deployment has enabled innovative companies to push a steady stream of value into their customer's hands, and XP's technical practices, including Test-Driven Development and Refactoring, continue to gain in value to organizations that once resigned themselves to having big balls of mud.

Despite the successes, we are still seeing plenty of organizations adopting either a trivial form of Agile or trying out a fuller-formed Agile process only to see much of the values/practices quickly fade away.  We've seen too many people driven to get "certifications" rather than a deep understanding of Agile.  And finally, we've witnessed buyouts of companies that were doing great Agile work only to have the purchasing company wipe away the Agile process in favor of outsourced labor that uses a Waterfall processes.  So there is still plenty of work for us Agilists to do!"
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Now that you've heard what they have to say, tell us your reflections for methodologies in 2009 and your predictions for 2010.