Getting Clueful: 7 Things CIOs Should Know About Agile Development

Agile methodologies for software projects can help organizations create better software faster. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard that before. Here, experienced programmers explain the key ingredients to make those goals achievable

5. Agile's Benefits Are Worth the Wait

As with any process change, the effects won't be seen immediately. It takes time for the process to take hold.

James Kricfalusi, service delivery executive at TEKSystems, says, "Sponsors and executives equate agile with immediate results. This is not realistic. Trust the team, relax and let them do their thing. Lower your expectations in the beginning because most of the initial advances cannot be in the functionality of the first release."

According to Kricfalusi, in the early work on an agile project, initial iterations are an investment in frameworks, new ideas, process definitions and understanding of the requirements. The initial release may miss the mark, but the team will have developed a cheap and effective means of providing effective feedback to improve later versions.

Judge the results relative to the time frame of the existing processes, Kricfalusi advises. "If your prior project time frames were 6 months to a year, it will take about that long before you can have the proper perspective to evaluate your progress."

Don't get lost in those initial iterations, either. Remember: They aren't intended to be the final version. Ivan Brusic, lead Web developer at Mansueto Ventures, says, "Sometimes a prototype is just that: a prototype. Early project iterations might get thrown away, but that tends to happen only when the initial requirements were not understood."

Sutton urges CIOs to tell everyone involved that you will support their efforts to deliver working software in a month, every month. "Back them up 100 percent like you promised — on training, wacky new ways of working — whatever they come up with. Try it for a month and see what you get, then do the whole thing again for the next month until you get the phenomenal results!"

For the changes to take place, says Pollyanna Pixton, president of Evolutionary Systems, stop micromanaging. "Recognize that agile practitioners will deliver business value in increments. Leaders should stop placing importance on 'old school' measurements such as schedule and costs, because in rapidly changing markets focus should be on value creation."

Agile tools like burndown charts will enable managers to see value creation and value velocity, so leaders can make the go/no-go decisions early in the projects, Pixton says. And, in so doing, avoid building any of the 64 percent of features rarely or never used.

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