Does Agile have any pitfalls?

Agile means a way of working where people are empowered to work when, where and how they choose. Or does it? Following the success of the Agile methodology in software development, the word has recently been appropriated to apply more generally to helping people to work more effectively.

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Here we focus on Agile in software development projects and take a brief look at some of the possible pitfalls.

Choosing the project

Development teams need to apply Agile on a project, and choosing the right project is critical. It needs to represent the deliverables typical of the team, and be of manageable size. Applying Agile for the first time on a huge, long-term project is a high risk to the business.

Cherry picking

Agile projects can fail when not all of the principles are applied. While some rules can be adapted, it is essential to fully understand the knock-on effects. Common examples are:

–       A management structure that relies on detailed monthly reporting
–       A QMS which insists on detailed specifications with rigid sign-off procedures
–       Discipline-centric management (where developers and testers report separately) which can undermine the team’s cohesion
–       Remotely located teams (developers and testers in separate locations). This is possible but requires excellent communication systems and a willingness to use them.

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Team understanding and buy-in

It is vital that all team members have some basic Agile training, to understand the difference in approach from current methods. In particular, the role of scrum master is the cornerstone of a successful team, and thorough training is critical, for example, see for scrum master training in Dublin.

The BBC explains the importance of team understanding in this article about development of the media player for the London Olympics –

Senior management buy-in

Normally, Agile receives a positive response from stakeholders in the business. The rapid delivery of software features, and open communication about progress, means they should have a much clearer sight of product development. For some departments, however, Agile may be seen as disrupting existing processes. Senior management needs to buy-in to the change, and be seen to be supportive.

Agile has been the lightweight methodology of choice for over 40 years. There is a wealth of training and experience in applying Agile, but as with any methodology the potential pitfalls need to be understood.

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