Is Agile Dead?

Is Agile Dead?


There have been some interesting articles on the “death of agile” from earlier this year—have you seen any of them? They have some great points. 

Like many individuals in the dev industry, some seem to be looking at agile as a “thing,” which, of course, it isn’t. Agile is a “philosophy”—a management philosophy—and yes, like many philosophies, it has its zealots.

But those of us who have been working in both the “command and control” cultures, as well as agile cultures for some time have a slightly different understanding of the values of certain aspects of agile.

Agile is an umbrella term used to identify certain values and principles critical to the way things are developed, such as customer collaboration, prioritized work, responding to change, tasks that are achievable in a short period of time, trust, team ownership and commitment and skill mastery.

Many of these have been captured in the Agile Manifesto.

Agile Is Actually Growing

Agile values and principles are beginning to expand and gain favor in broader industry segments (see this article from Harvard Business Review). If we look at broader acceptance and adoption across other business segments, then agile continues to grow in influence.

Underneath agile are several “frameworks” that have been refined to specifically address certain work flows and domains, e.g., development, while maintaining the focus on the principles.

Amongst these are Scrum, Kanban, DSDM, etc. Each of these frameworks have specific strengths and weaknesses as applied to specific problems, but that is a topic for a different day. I only mention it here because, frequently, people confuse “agile” with a specific framework implementation such as Scrum.

And there are certainly processes and capabilities that need to be adopted by organizations to keep up with the rapid pace of development and deployment. But processes, frameworks and tools can be implemented poorly. And there are terrible Scum or Kanban implementations.

And these poor implementations, unfortunately, give a bad name to the process in general. But that blame is often misplaced.

DevOps, CI and CD Are an Extension of Agile

In this article, the author proclaims that agile is dead, and long live continuous delivery. Others have said different movements are replacing agile as well.

DevOps is specifically an extension of the agile principles, where we have learned that the definition of teams must include all participants in the delivery of value, especially our IT operations team members.

Expanding this definition of team becomes inclusive of all the participants in not only “deploying” completed products, but also in earlier phases where we enable the team to shorten development cycles by removing blockers early, e.g., infrastructure set up, production environments ready to receive the product, etc.

Continuous delivery is ensuring that the people, process and technology are aligned in a manner that allows organizations to continuously “deliver” the product to a production environment.

The definition of the “production environment” can vary by organization and product. Continuous delivery is a natural extension of continuous integration. One can work without the other, however, the greatest value is achieved when both capabilities work hand in hand.

No, Agile Is Not Dead

So let’s revisit the original question: Is agile dead? In my opinion, absolutely not.

It is a principle-based management approach that seeks team enablement to deliver the most value in the shortest period of time while eliminating waste and work that adds no value.

Is it being replaced by continuous delivery? No.

It is true that I can implement continuous delivery without agile, however I may not be managing the overall value of the product. In other words, I can continuously deliver products that do not address what the product owner identified as the highest value.

But the question is: Is that what I should be doing? Not in my opinion.

Are there bad implementations of the agile frameworks? Absolutely.

But those companies that successfully deploy agile management principles consistently outperform those that have poor implementations.

It is difficult, at least for me, to try to summarize all the learnings and evolution of how we have to come to be where we are. So I encourage anyone reading this to continue this discussion. We have really only touched upon the surface of some fairly deep management philosophies.

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments below …


Ted Smith is vice president, engineering and chief information officer at Rogue Wave.

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