Sunday, April 6, 2008

Why Agile is hard?

I was talking with some developers and a manager of a company in LA about their Scrum implementation. They told me about various problems they faced - no buy in from business, inability to estimate exact dates etc.

Interestingly, at the same time, I happened to listen to Why Agile is Hard - The java Posee round up 08 podcast. Same problems were discussed in the podcast. The podcast mentions many interesting books and websites for agile followers. If you are an agile devotee, you should definitely listen to this podcast.

The developers from the company also talked about implementing Scrum only in the engineering team without getting buy in from the business. The business will give them a document of requirements which will be translated into user stories by a team lead.

One developer even told me about doing database design out of scrum sprints to avoid future changes. I think this is fundamentally wrong and against the spirit of Scrum. This is a typical case when unit tests are not implemented. Code without unit tests is difficult to re-factor hence developers tend to think about future requirements; there by defeating the purpose of iterative and incremental approach

Their other problem was accommodating QA in a sprint mainly because the testing was manual. I tried convincing them QAing within the sprint instead of doing staggered QA sprints. I suggested that they should try to automate the tests. While developers are working on the code, QA should work on creating / changing the automated tests.

They hadn't read the bible - Agile Software Development with SCRUM (Series in Agile Software Development). I suggested them to start with the book. Careful reading of this book will answer many of their questions. I also agree with one of the person in the podcast - start with small changes. Specifically for people who don't have unit tests. They need to start with unit testing first.

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