Agile is still the best methodology for project management


Agile is not as “Hot” as used to be - true or false?

Recently, I get a lot of negative attitude toward Agile Development. In many organizations where I was consulting, people use Scrum, but complain about it.

Some of the complaints I hear are:

  • There are too many meetings

  • The meetings are not effective

  • It is a waste of time to use Scrum

  • We do not see what is the benefit of Scrum

  • The team is not homogeneous and each member can only do certain tasks

  • Management force us to use Scrum against our will

I even found few articles in the Internet about how bad Scrum is. For example, this post.

The truth is, that in all those companies, Scrum is being abused to the point of being not effective. Scrum is not the problem, but the concept of Agile is misunderstood

Agile and Scrum was introduced more than a decade ago into the software industry to address a very big problem. And it did it quite well.

The Software Crisis

The problem was called The Software Crisis

“Software crisis is a term used in the early days of computing science for the difficulty of writing useful and efficient computer programs in the required time”

Before Agile methodology was introduced, Project Management in the software industry suffered terribly from not being able to deliver what was promised on time.

Agile, and particularly Scrum, brought a new initiative: There are three factors involved in each project:

  1. Content (what is expected to be delivered)

  2. Resources (The people that work to deliver the content)

  3. Time (in which the project should be delivered)

In any project, it was impossible to commit successfully to the three factors above. And because the content was hard commitment and the resources were limited, the time was always the weak link and would span longer than planned.

Agile is the solution

With Agile, a new approach was suggested:

  1. Time must be a hard commitment.

  2. Resources cannot change.

  3. Hence content must be flexible!

How can we achieve this flexibility? By setting short intervals of working. Content is being a commitment only in the scope of those short intervals.

With this approach, we cannot promise content for months time frame, but we can commit to content in the short intervals that eventually, accumulate to the full content. The time frame of the release is not affected though, and the product is released on time.

When we understand this principle, It is very clear what is expected to happen in the Agile process. If during the Agile process time frame is not guaranteed and not addressed, Then the whole of the Agile process is just an abuse!

Addressing complaints

As explained above, the complaints about Agile are derived from bad implementation. When implementing Agile and Scrum correctly, the following happens:

  1. Planning meetings become short and effective

  2. Most of what is planned for the sprint is accomplished by the end of the sprint

  3. Management learn that they can plan and commit to the planning on time

  4. Communication in the team and between teams improves

  5. Development becomes more efficient and focused

Some other benefits that are an outcome of Agile development

When adopting Agile methodology, some other benefits emerge, but they are not the main reason to use Agile or Scrum!

  1. People are capable of manage their own daily work and become more independent

  2. Motivation of team members increases

  3. Team leaders do not need to deal with all the project details, and they are free for other assignments

  4. Team members become more professional

Maintaining Agile methodology in a company

Due to Parkinson’s law and other human tendencies, Agile works only if you manage the process and make sure it is effective. If you let a company that works with Scrum to develop its own concepts, very soon you will see that the managers would do everything they can to stop this methodology. This means, that management that want effective project management, must enforce Agile over the organization. Couches and consultants are needed once in a while to preserve the process.