Does Agile Development Matter?

Over the last several years, Agile software development has gained inpopularity, thanks to its promises of speeding software projects with aiterative approach designed to encourage rapid, high-qualitydevelopment.

Even though Agile won converts due to being a more self-organizing,less hierarchical alternative to traditional models like “waterfall”development, the methodology today can be highly formalized. It ofteninvolves formal approaches to precisely how development teams shouldorganize, meet and work to which dedicated software development teamsadhere.

That’s one reason that even while Agile is growing, there is also atrend away from following its strict, formalized methodology. New datafrom Forrester Research — in afollow-up to its first-quarter 2009 study ondevelopment practices — points to an era where developers areleveraging only some elements of Agile as opposed to strictly followingall of its formalized dictates.

During a live Webcast sponsored by HP, Forrester Senior Analyst DaveWest noted that a late 2009 study conducted by his firm put Agile in thetop spot for development methodologies currently in use. Forrester foundthat 35 percent of the surveyed based of 1,300 developers were usingAgile development. What was surprising to West is what came in secondplace.

“This is the worrying stat — when we asked the 1,300 ITprofessionals what is the methodology that most closely reflects whatthey are now using, the majority said Agile,” West said. “But underneaththat, 31 percent said they don’t follow a software methodology at all.”

As in turns out, West determined that software development teamsdon’t see Agile as an ethos but rather as a creed.

“Though Agile is very popular, we’re seeing that what developers wantis Agile++.” West said. “There isn’t just one Agile: ‘Agile’ is reallythe ability to respond to change in the most effective way, consideringthe restraints of the environment in which you’re working in.”

What West stressed is that developers are focused on “agile”development approaches — not necessarily “Agile,” per se, with all thestrict adherence to accepted methodologies that it entails.

Emphasis on efficiency

In West’s view, what agility means is more frequent delivery ofsoftware milestones and builds. That in turn requires more robust buildand deployment processes and more frequent testing, as well as moreflexible deployment environments.

“Quality and deployment processes really need to be on steroids,”West said. “We’re talking about really efficient build and testprocesses.”

West’s views on agile development practices being adopted in lieu ofstrict adherence to Agile is one shared by Timothy Perry, CTO forretirement and protection at Genworth Financial. During the Webcast,Perry noted that his company’s IT leadership is interested only inbetter software that is delivered more quickly.

“From a leadership standpoint, it’s about being able to deliver ontime and on budget and as fast as possible,” Perry said. “A lot of theconcepts from Agile appear to be helping us and that’s what we’re tryingto introduce to our teams.”

West added that he doesn’t expect that a strict adoption of Agilemethodologies will ever completely dominate the development landscape.He does expect that, over time, increasing amounts of developmentprocess will become more Agile-like.

“What we’re finding is that organizations are adopting the practicesof ‘agility’ to improve the way they engineer software,” West said.

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