Let me first start off by saying that we at Princeton Blue love agile. We practice it daily across our entire portfolio of projects and believe in its benefits. Yet, nothing is perfect. The dirty secret of Agile is that it has many pitfalls. Pitfalls that if not avoided, can create a chaotic, short-sighted mess of your platform.
Maybe you heard that Agile is flexible, nimble, and adapts to the ever changing needs of the business. It’s software development with catlike reflexes. It can continuously improve your application with updates scheduled into infinity with a vision that is always evergreen. OK Stop. Before all the Kool-Aid is gone let’s take a step back and uncover what might be missing and focus on how fixing it.
Agile is, to its credit, a business driven design process. It relies on end users to communicate their wishes to the development team, who then iterate building those items over time. The primary risk of this approach is that it can be easy to lose sight of the vision and master plan for the project. By placing emphasis on atomizing each individual functional element it is easy to let design integrity sprawl and create a fractured technical foundation.
Rapid development has motivated us towards an imperfect balance. One that weights a desire for increased functionality over a need for platforms that are scalable and easy to maintain. Overtime, it is easy for technical debt to build up. As more features get built, backlogs fill up with these forgotten technical tasks. Items that are under prioritized against their functionality counterparts. This kick-the-can approach to application design may deliver a lot of flash and wow upfront. Yet, it mails a large maintenance headache into the future.
Although Agile is often applied over the long term. It is by nature a short-sighted process. Teams are often locked into a Sisyphean task of delivering user stories on a tight sprint deadline. Team members are asked to continuously jump between many disparate functional items. Spinning completed items out to project teams that are misled into ranking story points over quality. When it’s always crunch time it’s easy to let requirements and build get sloppy, allowing the immediate pressure of the next sprint demo brush aside aspirations for craftsmanship.
We are as guilty as anyone of falling prey to the lure of an exciting ideal or buzzword, but here at Princeton Blue we work to actively train our focus on what drives us. Establishing durable and long lasting partnership with our clients by delivering quality solutions that exceed expectations. In part, that means putting a little common sense back into the agile process that we love.
We wanted to retain all the elements that makes Agile great; the collaboration, flexibility, continuous improvement, and transparency. But, apply a simple set guardrails that add a support framework we feel reduces risk and helps deliver a more consistent quality solution.
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