Agile Development

Agile development is amazing or horrible depending on who you talk to! But this is because its original intent has been hijacked. Being agile is a good idea at its core.

People generally agree that software development can be expensive. So many businesses want to predict development costs before they invest in a product. If only it were that simple.

FAKE Agile is easy to sell…

Unfortunately, shady folks in the software industry pander to this desire for certainty. They know it’s easier to work with management when you don’t ask them to change. So they peddle around a compromised message for what agile development really takes. One that lets founders and investors believe they’re agile – with none of the benefits.

When budgeted to cost estimates, development is actually more expensive. This often causes products to generate less revenue. The industry needs methods that are more successful at delivering profitable software.

Agile development requires humility

Companies must change how they invest in software development before these more successful methods can be realized. But people in positions of power aren’t always eager to try things contrary to their experience. Regardless, we must convince them they can’t predict everything the customer will want (or the true cost of the product) up-front. Otherwise agile development won’t really benefit them.

When up-front estimation is done, software developers feel the pressure. They have to work overtime when projects inevitably go over schedule. ? Do you “hate agile” or are you on a team with people who do? This is usually the reason why.

Agile development teaches you what customers pay for

Agile development helps software teams spend less money before getting a return on investment when done correctly. But teams need to budget without “locking them in” to a fixed scope.

Instead of trying to determine costs, businesses must estimate the market opportunity first. This answers the question: how much revenue would we generate if we deliver this to our customers? Armed with this information they can decide: “how much are we willing to spend to pursue that revenue”?

Agile development won’t work with a fixed budget

This offers a big advantage over budgeting a traditional waterfall (or fake agile) project. It frees the team to spend the budget over a period of time (say a year) without tracking it to a schedule. Instead they deliver tiny ideas to their customer regularly. They gather feedback about what customers think. And they change their ideas until customers will pay for them. In essence they discover the most successful product.

Unfortunately doing this requires courage many investors and founders of software companies don’t have. They would rather believe the lie that they can predict costs. Even if they could discover more profitable features driven by customer feedback.

So they fall back into thinking they can forecast software development like most other industries. When this happens, teams often follow all the typical agile processes (Scrum or Kanban, DevOps, Continuous Delivery etc.) – but they miss out on the biggest benefits!

True agile development is RARE

Much of my career has been spent educating IT consulting clients on the benefits of truly agile development. But old habits die hard. Agile development isn’t about getting work done faster. It’s about delivering the right thing to customers! Investing less at a time, releasing more often, and being able to quickly change direction makes this possible.


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