Agile development isn't for everybody

Web teams should focus more on iterations

Sick of the term 'Agile development' already?

Never fear. Kelly Goto, consultant and co-author of the book, WebFlow that Works, thinks Web and IT managers should take the word 'agile' out of the discussion. Instead, Web teams should be talking about 'iterations' in their user centred design approach.

"We are trying to figure out how to put the flow in our daily lives," Goto told delegates at the Web Directions South conference in Sydney. "Agile is the big buzz word lately. Everybody is talking about it as if it's the magic solution. But how do we integrate it into our environment?"

According to Goto, organisations should starts off with the Waterfall methodology and add in the best practices for user centred design But with so many methodologies around these days, it can get a little out of control.

"The truth is it's not one process fits all," she said. "It's part of the bigger picture. Some teams are running in Agile well, but many people believe in Agile when they have no plan in place.

"The fragile truth is that's not gonna cut it."

Goto says instead, organisations should focus on iterative design, although she is quick to point out that iterative design by itself won't save web project managers and teams.

"So many groups are taking best practices and modifying them even before they learn what's important and what's real," she said.

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Rather than taking an idea and running with it without understanding it fully, organisations should work to identify patterns that allow them to move forward, in the process becoming 'unstuck' and achieving 'flow' - the in-the-zone state where creativity and productivity combine.

"Most of the people in the flow state are working on something challenging. It's about understanding the balance between skill and challenge."

According to Goto many companies are stuck because so much direction comes fro the top down. In the 2.0 world, much of the information comes from the bottom, which can lead to a disconnect between support and possibility and it requires a fair bit of organisational change to achieve 'flow'.

"They're small teams with specific skill sets, they're working together and they're focused. That's why it's an organisational change. You have to be able to set teams so they can concentrate on what they're doing and get into the flow. In an enterprise environment it's even more complicated."

So how can enterprise change? First off, ditch the traditional agency model. The lead has to be part of a team. And that team needs a series of self check points and milestones.

And don't underestimate the power of the platform.

"It's important because it allows you to create," Goto said. "You can create a predefined set of functions and allow yourself to modularise them in. The information architecture process goes a lot faster, the requirements development process goes a lot faster. This is the crux of how companies and team are unstuck. Because they have a platform to build on. Once you figure out what platform works for you in the organisation, it really makes a difference."

The Web Directions South conference in Sydney is part of the inaugural Australian Web Week that kicked off last Friday with an exhibition starring the Australian designer of Twitter’s Fail Whale.

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