Agile Development

The Agile Manifesto seems like ancient history now.  The concepts of iterative development were not new – but they hadn't been marketed until the manifesto was published and the movement was unleashed.

In  late 1999 or early 2000 I can remember sitting in a meeting room with the Assistant CIO of a large healthcare organization .. describing my preference for using what I then called an iterative development process – where we would define "bite-sized parts" for implementation, exposure, and refinement on a regular basis. 

She had never heard of such a thing – and advocated for the developers on the team: 

"They need to know when it's finished!" 

Me:  "This is software – it's never finished"

"But the customer needs to sign off on a completed project.  How can we know that it will meet the customer need?"

"uuuh … ask them?"

"We ask them during the requirements process – when they define the project"

"And that is successful?  They are always happy with the final product?"

"Well – no – but if they didn't describe their needs appropriately – that isn't our concern.  So long as they have signed off on the spec before the development work begins – we have clarity for the what the requrements are – and if we build it to spec – we've completed the project and we can move on."


I stopped trying.  Clearly the goal here was to complete the project "to spec" and move on to the next project. 

There was a problem though – developers were bypassing standard process – and interacting directly with customers (with no management oversight) and were creating solutions collaboratively with customers.

So the Ass(istant) CIO wanted to give the developers a sense of closure .. but the developers wanted to please the customers – and bypassed their managers to do so!

Trouble in them thar hills, too.  With no Human Factors training – and minimal design skill – developers all-too-often gave the customers what they asked for rather than what they needed.  End result: ACIO came down hard on such "renegade" developers.

This reinforced the waterfall mentality.  🙁