Monday, September 07, 2009

Defining Agile in e-Technology Management

I have a piece by me in the latest issue of e-Technology Management entitled “Agile agile everywhere - not a definition to speak of”. Believe it or not, for all the stuff I write in this blog about “agile” I’ve been trying to define what “agile is” for a long time. When I deliver a training course I always want to say “Agile is...” but there is no simple/short definition I can come up with.

In the e-Technology Management article I distinguish between Agile methods, the Agile toolkit and Agility or, to put it another way “the sate of being Agile”. The term “Agile” is really a label for all of these ideas. Its short hand, its useful in conversation but if you want to really understand it you have to go beyond the label.

One of the problems with “Agile” is that it are often defined as “not the waterfall.” Someone says “What is Agile?” and the answer starts out “Well you know traditionally we did requirements, then analysis, then development, then.... ?”

Yes its laziness, yes I’m guilty, but I’m not the only one.

When we define Agile by what it is not then the scope is unlimited. In my experience, very little development work happens the way it is supposed to in the “waterfall”. So most development is “not waterfall”. Thus, if you define Agile as as what it is not (i.e. not the waterfall), and most development is not waterfall (at the point the work is done) then most development is Agile.

Anyway, I’m sure this is a theme I’ll return to.