Agile. Man jumping athletically, framed over the moon.

A Better Agile Model

Although some consider Agile a lazy and unproductive approach to development, Bleum’s unique interpretation of the Methodology is achieving marked results for the company’s clients.

Nearly 76% of IT companies are currently claiming to use an Agile Methodology in their processes, with a high likelihood of even further expansion as interest remains high. Agile seems to be here to stay, at least in some form or other.

Some, however, are not so quick to jump on the Agile bandwagon. In his piece, Agile Software is a Cop-Out; Here’s What’s Next, Forrester analyst Mike Gualtieri disputes some of Agile’s core founding principles. In particular, he discusses why he feels that

“Business people and developers working together daily” is lazy.

Although Gualtieri’s article is now five years old, it eloquently puts forward standard objections to Agile – that are just as valid five years later as they were at the time. Bleum’s original response to this article from the time is below.

Can developers understand requirements without ‘hand-holding’?

Firstly, Gualtieri argues against the idea that it is impossible for developers to fully understand requirements without business people holding their hand. Secondly, the author stresses the importance of user experience in software development, but points out that business people are not necessarily the end user.

Therefore, requirements business people set may not actually be what an end user wants.

Ultimately, the author argues, this Agile principle results in uncertainty and mediocrity in production. While several of Gualtieri’s points are certainly true, he ultimately puts forth a one-size-fits-all critique of Agile. Individual experiences, however, refute his position.

At Bleum, we have been able to achieve great results by utilizing our own brand of Agile Methodology for development and client interaction. This includes a more holistic approach to the daily scrum, coupled with state-of-the-art technology which effectively brings Agile teams together around the world.

Bleum’s Agile Methodology Centers were created as a conduit of creativity and innovation. This includes not only real-time collaboration between a specific software  development team and business partners, but between offices, teams and verticals. The entire Center is set up with the best elements of Agile in mind, the most important element being the creation of a highly collaborative environment.

Wall-less work stations and video-conferencing facilities reach virtually into other offices to allow for ease of brainstorming, meeting and collaboration on the fly. Bleum has also taken the quintessential Agile sticky-note wall and created a bespoke software package to allow for real-time updates accessible between sites.

These are visible both on PCs and through the Center’s touch-screen wall. New notes can either be entered through a PC or by going up to the wall and entering information as you would on a mobile touch-screen device. This unique feature reduces the necessary frequency of meetings but increases the available time for innovation and collaboration.

The final elements in the Bleum Agile Methodology Center are user-experience rooms. These rooms are dedicated specifically to user testing, as Bleum recognizes user experience to be the most critical part of any development work.

How is Bleum’s approach to Agile countering Gualtieri’s main assumptions?

Gualtieri incorrectly assumes that Agile principles make all developers lazy, as most developers would “…rather stick with what they know.” In essence, this means that a constant reliance on business people stifles creativity and encourages a lack of domain knowledge. Bleum invests heavily in the domain knowledge of its associates. The company understands that domain expertise builds a better context around what a software project will accomplish.

Bleum’s continuous focus on advancing domain expertise is seen in its dedicated Centers of Excellence that manage and share industry-related knowledge. The added benefits of these Centers of Excellence include the ability to rapidly develop a thorough understanding of key business drivers and define competencies and assessments for ongoing employee development. This means that not only do Bleum’s developers fully understand business requirements without an acute reliance on business partners, but can better predict future business needs.

Gualtieri correctly points out that user experience is the most critical element in software development. What he does not agree with is Agile’s approach to achieving this superb user experience. He argues that those same business people who are setting requirements are not the end users. This means that there is often a “…dead reckoning…” along the wrong course.

Bleum’s Agile Centers offer up a more collaborative model allowing for opinions from third parties, including significant end-user testing. Bleum’s developers are well versed in white space and gap analysis, which enables them to take basic business requirements and create the best possible product for the end user.Instead of simply following requirement

Instead of simply following requirements set by a top global hedge fund partner, Bleum found gaps that led to the creation of a system that reduced trading latency for the firm by 400%. Bleum also analyzed critical gaps for an international non-profit partner, helping to shore up key legacy systems. The new framework has led to only two post-production defects during the entire three-year relationship, and a cost savings of more than $5 million for the charity.

Does Agile inherently encourage mediocrity?

The author’s most refutable point is that Agile Methodologies create uncertainty and mediocrity in development. While this may be true with the prototypical model, Bleum’s version of Agile has done nothing but encourage the most dynamic wins and acute successes for its clients. Bleum’s Agile Methodology helped to build an e-commerce site for a major global retailer. The site has handled, glitch free since 2009, an average of 1,000,000 orders per day. A major international software vendor has been able to accelerate new product releases by 600%, reduce rework by 46% and increase development productivity by 28% since collaborating with Bleum’s Agile team. One of America’s largest financial institutions worked with Bleum to develop core transaction system software that ran non-stop for 14 months. In addition, they were able to increase product delivery time, all of which have been delivered with a schedule variance of less than 2%.

Agile done right

It is clear by these examples that Bleum’s approach to Agile is working. Although Gualtieri is certainly no fan of the basic methodology, he should understand that with a few simple tweaks Agile can work remarkably well. Bleum’s method encourages collaboration and idea generation, going directly against Gualtieri’s version of the lazy Agile model. Instead of simply relying on an initial idea, forced and consistent collaboration results in a higher-quality product. In the famed words of Henry Ford:

“…if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Bleum’s model takes these faster horses and makes them into automobiles.

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