Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Scaling Software Agility by Dean Leffingwell

Dean is the former founder and CEO of Requisite Inc, responsible for the Requirements Gathering and Analysis Tool: Requisite Pro. It seems like his vast experience from startup to merging with IBM has touched on a number of key software development issues and he is now consulting very successfully and writing good books!

I picked up Scaling Software Agility at a book store/stall at SPA 2008 as it seemed to have a couple of new things to say, or at least say them in new ways - and I was very pleased with my choice!

I believe there is something for everyone in this book - wether you are new to agile or an experienced practitioner. The book touches on a number of topics and leads you from brief "beginner" chapters through to more interesting ones that are very relevant in today's software development arena - the scaling of agility.

Things that stand out in my memory of this book are the application of valuable software quality and management metrics, and the many strategies that Dean suggests can be used to counter the arguments typical organisational "police" will use to counter the attempt to "go [more] agile" and potentially inadvertently lead to "acceptable failure" or worse, "death march".

Usually corporations do not react to the infiltration of agile practices as they are kept within [small] team perimeters, thereby "flying under the radar". If you have a requirement to scale agile, then by definition you clearly have more people and teams that you are concerned about. There is more visibility and attention from the people who might strategically oppose the changes they do not understand, and/or department(s) or programme(s) it is being attempted in - key strategic people that you never previously even knew existed, nor what their concerns were, are now watching your every move.

Why I recommend Scaling Software Agility:
Reason 1: Part 1 covers the essentials of Agile, Waterfall, XP, RUP, Scrum, Lean Software, DSDM, FDD in 85 pages!
Reason 2: Part 2 follows with more depth about the 7 Agile Practices that work: Agile Component Team, Agile Planning and Tracking, Iterations, Small Frequent Releases, Agile Testing, Continuous Integration, Retrospectives.
Reason 3: The 7 practices Dean recommends for Scaling Agile:
- "Intentional Architecture": Approaches on how to tackle large software systems with Agile Architecture
- "Scalable Lean Requirements": Three simple topics that avoid analysis-paralysis failure mode: vision, roadmap and just-in-time (JIT) elaboration
- "Systems of Systems and the Agile Release Train": how to plan, and deliver, complex software components with interdependencies
- "Managing Highly Distributed Development": It is very difficult, and is a problem all successful software programmes face. Sooner or later the team is too big to fit in 1 room, on 1 floor, of 1 building, of 1 city, of 1 country. Inevitably practices have to be developed that can assist software that is developed by many different people, in different locations
- "Impact on Customers and Operations": How marketing, or product owners, or programme owners, will be convinced that Agile is a good thing for them
- "Changing the Organisation": How to address the arguments and fallacies that the corporate immune system is going to throw around as things become more agile
- "Measuring Business Performance": Real, usable, useful management metrics that can be used to control and manage large scale [agile] software development efforts


Anonymous said...

Sounds good. I'm also looking forward to the book by Damon Poole, currently in draft form on his blog (novel idea).

A great addition to your blog roll?


We measure our velocity in bags of Cheetos eaten.

Rob Brown said...


Thanks, I will definitely keep an eye on what Damon is up to. For those who don't know, Damon is a founder and CTO of AccuRev by far the best Source Control/Configuration Management System I have ever worked with.

Rob Brown said...

A presentation/summary Dean created: Scaling Software Agility Presentation by Dean Leffingwell

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