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Fabrizio Giudici is a Senior Java Architect with a long Java experience in the industrial field. He runs Tidalwave, his own consultancy company, and has contributed to Java success stories in a number of fields, including Formula One. Fabrizio often appears as a speaker at international Java conferences such as JavaOne and Devoxx and is member of JUG Milano and the NetBeans Dream Team. Fabrizio is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 67 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Agile is Good... But Pay Attention to End Customers

06.03.2010
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I can't call myself an "agilist", as I'm rather a hybrid kind of software architect. But I like many aspects of the agile methods and I constantly try to adopt more of them. For instance, I like making frequent releases when I actually have control of the project (which includes having tests with good coverage). For blueBill Mobile, my first Android project, I've rolled out three versions in two weeks, which means one per week. As mobile projects are small, it makes sense to have a more frequent release cycle as it happens for desktop or enterprise stuff.

But a few days ago, I read a post on the blog of an italian journalist. He's not focused in technology, but he was talking about the iPad launch in Italy and the fact that many nation-wide newspapers were saying they were ready with their specific applications. He commented about one of them as being poor, and then "they released a new version after a few hours". This was intended to be a critique. Now, I don't own an iPad and maybe the application he was referring to was really bad, but this made me think that, from the perspective of an end customer, frequent releases might sound not good at all. Instead, they could be perceived as the constant, and failing, attempt to fix bugs.

Now, let's recall that agile methods are also about communication and sharing values. With a regular customer, you can go agile as you share the way you work and you have educated the customer so he expects frequent releases to be delivering more and more value, rather than a problematic try to pursue and fix bugs. But you can't educate and end customer. Actually, it's likely that you'll have a contact with an extremely small fraction of them - I don't expect that they'll go and read the change log for each release - supposing they understand what a change log is - and, at the moment, the tools in the Android Market aren't helping at all in communicating with customers.

After sharing my issues with a few guys in the Java Posse mailing list, I concluded that sharing the agile frequent release cycle with blueBill Mobile customers might be dangerous for my application. Obviously, I'll keep being agile, and have frequent releases, but I'll not publish them to the Market immediately. I've still to figure out a reasonable lapse for the end customer perspective - it could be one or two months.

Thanks to the fact that the Android Market is not the exclusive source of software, I will anyway announce and make available the frequent releases on the website. If a customer got to the website, I suppose I can try to explain him what's happening and, if he feels comfortable, he can directly download and install any fresh stuff. BTW, this is a chance that iPhone developer don't have, AFAIK.

In any case, I think that Google should really work on these subtle aspects. After all they're also a communication company and should have the know-how to roll out effective solutions to the problem.

 

Published at DZone with permission of Fabrizio Giudici, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Xebia Labs replied on Mon, 2010/06/07 - 9:03am

Interesting point of view – I’m sure many companies don’t think of frequent releases as a bad thing, but, you’re right, users might. Do you think customers would rather have the latest updates though, rather than be left in the dark with an old version just to avoid looking like the company’s fixing bugs? - XebiaLabs (http://www.xebialabs.com)

Fabrizio Giudici replied on Wed, 2010/06/09 - 6:45am

I'm trying to figure it out. I think that at least there are two kind of users, those who are not turned down by frequent updates and those who are, so perhaps it's better to address both classes.

This is also related to the way they find your app and eventually get in touch (or not) with you. I'm going to give more details about what I'm discovering in an upcoming post.

Xebia Labs replied on Mon, 2010/06/21 - 10:33am

Thanks Fabrizio – we look forward to reading your next post.

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