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Nobody is interested in Agile

Would you buy a car because the manufacturer uses Lean Manufacturing process, Just-in-Time production or tools such as Value Stream Mapping, Kanban and Poka-Yoke? If you answered “yes” because you thought of Toyota, then I need to ask you to think again and answer the question as it is stated. Would you buy a car based on the “way” it is manufactured or would you purchase it for the benefits it provides?

Let me help you a little with the answer. Although many authors describe in great length the amazing methods used by Toyota to ensure quality of their vehicles, people started to buy Toyotas in the ’70s when the energy crisis hit the US hard. The manufacturing methods were the same but suddenly the benefits (reducing gas consumption) became very apparent. Even at that, it took Toyota over 40 years to become the number one car manufacturer in the world.

What does this have to do with selling Agile, Scrum or XP to organizations? A few things actually. Search Google for terms such as “why use agile” or “why use scrum” and what you will find are power point presentations and blog posts explaining WHAT Agile is, Scrum and XP are but very little information on the benefits, the WHY – which was the question in the first place.

This interesting situation may be linked to the fact that most of the people originally associated with Agile were engineers and technologists. The original intent behind the Agile principles (and the manifesto) were to address a perceived weakness with the software development process (WHAT) and, as such, put most of the focus on documenting an improved approach to software development. Many of the software engineering practices to come about are great ways of improving software development but traction is slow. Will it take 40 years for agile principles and innovative engineering practices to dethrone the traditional waterfall development process?

We need to use a better method of promoting agility. Notice how I didn’t say selling agility. Selling implies that someone is pushing for someone else to purchase. As such, if we want to increase the adoption of agility within organization, we need to show benefits. This is even truer since very few of the decision makers are engineers and don’t come from a highly technical background. Decision makers need to understand the benefits or the ROI before they would agree to move to a different approach so we need to show them the benefits, the WHY.

I’m stopping here for today but an upcoming post will present the benefits of applying agile principles to your software development project.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Michel #

    You have a point when you say that there is a lot of fluff around the web about what is Agile and not that many real life examples of the real benefits it gives to organizations.

    It is also true that your won’t decide the car to buy based on how it was manufactured. The same applies to software. If it works, who cares if it was implemented using methodology A, B or C?

    However, if your are not buying software (as a package) but you are developing your own custom software, then the methodology you use is in fact very important and you should care!

    Agile DOES work. There are a lot of great examples out there of how organizations (not IT geeks) are using Agile to deliver real business value, ROI and all other non technical things they care about.

    Take a look at for a bunch of examples from real companies that have real success stories to tell.

    April 21, 2009
  2. Martin Proulx #

    Michel, thank you for your comment.

    I agree with you, when purchasing a software package you shouldn’t worry about the methodology that was used to produce it. In addition, I fully support your point that Agile does work and quite well I would add.

    As a believer, I find we use to wrong approach to promote Agility to organizations. We put too much emphasis on the processes and tools required to do it right as opposed to the actual benefits that Agility brings to the organization.

    If we want to improve software development and positively improve people’s live, we need to do a better job at promoting agility. Everyone will benefit.

    April 22, 2009
  3. How manufacturers build their vehicles is definitely the last thing on the mind of the buyer. It’s all about the features and benefits of ownership.

    If I’m concerned about the company’s ability to support or service my purchase in the years ahead, I may be a little concerned about the manufacturer and the manufacturing process as it impacts their profitability.

    Great title for an article. Although I’m not in IT and a little removed from the software side of the business, I can appreciate the subject content.

    April 22, 2009

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