Thought it’s been around for decades, Agile’s tenets of collaboration, incremental development, speed, and flexibility resonate with IT leaders who want developers to focus on working with users to develop the applications. This method stands in contrast to the more rigid and traditional process of collecting user requirements, taking months to create a complete application, and delivering the application to users with the hopes that it fits the bill and that requirements haven’t changed during the process.
In fact, in today’s world, where business leaders can shop for the technology they need with any cloud or software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider they choose, IT must ensure enterprise applications are built collaboratively to meet needs, or lose out to the competition.
“In many cases today, the business has alternatives, thanks to cloud -- all the services they could need are available with a credit card,” says Raziel Tabib, Senior Product Manager of Application Lifecycle Management with HP Software . “IT has to work to be the preferred solution. If the IT department wants to maintain its position, it has to make the best tools to meet business needs. Developers have to get engaged with end users to ensure they are meeting those needs.” [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
HP Software recently released HP Agile Manager, a SaaS-based solution for planning and executing agile projects. And the division itself has embraced some of the principles of agile that have, for example, helped it to move from an 18-month release cycle to come up with product releases and refreshes every month, says Tabib.
Pick and choose
However, Agile is far from an all-or-nothing proposition, particularly for large organizations with developers distributed across the globe that may have a harder a time adopting certain agile work styles, he warns.
“We’re not saying any organization can just look at the agile manifesto and start tomorrow with scrum meetings and everything will work well,” Tabib says. “We have engineers in Israel, Prague, and Vietnam. While some agile practices are easy to pick up, others are really difficult to adopt, when you’re talking about organizations at that scale.”
That’s okay, he adds -- organizations should be encouraged to cherry pick the elements of agile that make sense to embrace, blend them with more traditional approaches to application development, and still reap benefits.
A report published in September of 2012 by Forrester Consulting on behalf of HP supports the idea that Agile is one of many disciplines that can be used to develop applications that meet users needs.
The report, entitled Agile Software Development and the Factors that Drive Success, surveyed 112 professionals regarding application development habits and success. It found that companies already successful in application development used Agile techniques to make them even better.
For example, respondents cited the Agile practice of limiting the amount of work in progress to reduce the impact of sudden business change meant that requirements didn’t grow stale while waiting for coding to begin -- but that their overall success was based on more than just implementing agile.
And it found respondents at companies that weren’t as successful with application development reported using aspects of agile. The upshot of the survey was that simply adopting agile did not ensure success. “Agile software development is one tool in a vast toolbox,” reads the report. “But a fool with a tool is still a fool.”
I think Agile will get even more of a boost in value as developers move toward a "mobile first" approach, which seems tightly coupled with fast, iterative apps improvement schedules.
One of the neat things about a mobile first orientation is that it forces long-overdue simplification and ease in use in apps. When new apps are designed for their mobile device deployment first, the dictates of the mobile constraints prevail.
Combine that with Agile, and the guiding principles of speed and keeping user requirements dominant help keep projects from derailing. Revisions and updates remain properly constrained. Mobile First discourages snowballing of big applications, instead encouraging releases of smaller, more manageable apps.
Mobile First design benefits combined with Agile methods can be well extended across SaaS, cloud, VDI, web, and even client-server applications.
(BriefingsDirect contributor Cara Garretson provided editorial assistance and research on this post. She can be reached on LinkedIn.)
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