While I’ve never been considered an Agile zealot (and I know a few), I do agree with the basic tenets of Agile software development. When I was first involved in developing software more than 25 years ago, the Waterfall (WF) Method was pretty much the only game in town. The WF Method requires that all requirements be defined prior to doing design, then the design must be completed before development can begin, development must complete before testing can begin, and so on to the end of the project. In hindsight, pretty much a horrible way to develop software effectively.
The advent of Agile methodologies stressed four basic ideas:
1) Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
2) Working software over comprehensive documentation.
3) Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
4) Responding to change over following a plan.
It’s outside the scope of this blog to go into the details of an Agile project, but if you’ve done software development, you can probably appreciate the fact that these principles lead to more effective results as compared to Waterfall development.
In the last two organizations I’ve worked in, large multi-faceted projects that include hardware development, product marketing, manufacturing, as well as software development are typically managed using a Stage Gate (SG) process, which shares many similar characteristics to the old Waterfall process — first, the project is scoped, then a business case is built, then development ensues, then testing, followed by deployment. Each stage ends with a “gate” review, where the deliverables from the stage are reviewed and approved.
So the dilemma is this — how does the software development team conduct their development using Agile practice while conforming to the larger SG process being used to manage the overall project?
The answer is in properly integrating Agile practice in context with the various stages of the Stage Gate process. I have been successful in implementing such a practice with software teams working inside of larger cross functional projects and have had great success in delivering software products in this complex environment.
If your team is facing this challenge, give us a call at Applied Logic. We’d be happy to show you how our methods can work for you and deliver results within your Stage Gate environment.