ten rounds with manchester’s finest

This week’s meeting of the AgileNorth group was a dsdm case study. Here’s my view of how the evening went:

Andy Cheetham works for a leading vendor of packaged business software. They tried DSDM on a greenfield project and then on the development of four new related products. Their official line is that use of DSDM has now been stopped, having been less than successful. But in reality many of their new projects continue to work in a more agile way than before, with great success.

Andy received something of a grilling from our audience of eight (including several agile practitioners and a DSDM expert), and claimed he found the experience both cathartic and rewarding! Although he had planned to talk for only half an hour, we kept him in the spotlight for nearly two hours, going over in minute detail the processes used before, during and after his company’s “experiment”. (If you would like your agile processes subjected to a deep and searching review, for free, please contact us and arrange to speak at one of our meetings!)

In the end we identified three main failings in the company’s adoption of agile: First, they tried to do it by reading the book. Everyone present agreed that adoption of agile methods can be counter-intuitive, and that at least some time is required from a coach who can point everyone in the right direction from time to time. Second, they treated the iterations as phases in their old waterfall. So for example the first timebox delivered only screen prototypes and nothing that could be actually used. And thirdly, they tried to develop their products in traditional layers, instead of feature-by-feature. So at the end of several months work there was a rich infrastructure, but user involvement had dwindled as there was nothing to review.

This was a very interesting and revealing discussion, and Andy has pledged to return next year to let us know how his new, low-key agile approach is working.

And here’s the speaker’s view:

“I can confirm that I found the experience cathartic and rewarding and am, if anthing, more determined to promote agile techniques within our development. The audience were certainly challenging in a manner that I had not anticipated but it was clear to me this was fueled by a genuine and keen interest in the subject matter. It was also clear that there was deep insight and knowledge with regard to development methodologies and the concept of recognised behavioural patterns in software development as opposed to design patterns was something new to me (and quite fascinating). I do intend to read up on this and if you can recommend any good books I would appreciate you sending me references.

I am glad it was a mutually worthwhile experience although driving home I did feel like I had gone 10 rounds with Lennox Lewis.

Looking forward to returning in 12 months.

Regards, Andy”

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