There had been some talking about broader issues in these approaches in 2000 at a workshop hosted by kent Beck in Oregon. Although this workshop was focused on Extreme Programming (the community that at that time had gained the most attention) several non xpers had attended. One the discussions that came up was whether it was better for xp to be a broad or concrete movement. Kent preferred a more focused cohesive community. The workshop was organized, if I remember correctly, primarily by jim Highsmith and Bob Martin. They contacted people who they felt were active in communities with these similar ideas and got seventeen of them together for the Snowbird workshop. The initial idea was just to get together and build better understanding of each others' approaches. Robert Martin was keen to get some statement, a manifesto that could be used to rally the industry behind these kinds of techniques.
For more of my views on agile methods look at the appropriate sections of my articles and blog. The following list is by no means complete. It reflects a personal selection of the flavors of agile that have most interested and influenced me over the last decade. Agile manifesto The term 'agile' got hijacked for this activity in early 2001 when a bunch of people who had pdf been heavily involved in this work got together to exchange ideas and came up with the manifesto for Agile software development. Prior to this workshop a number of different groups had been developing similar ideas about software development. Most, but by no means all, of this work had come out of the Object-Oriented software community that had long advocated iterative development approaches. This essay was originally written in 2000 to try to pull together these various threads. At that time there was no common name for these approaches, but the moniker 'lightweight' had grown up around them. Many of the people involved didn't feel this was a good term as it didn't accurately convey the essence of what these approaches were about.
Each community also borrows from ideas and techniques from each other. Many practitioners move between different communities spreading different ideas around - all in all it's a complicated but vibrant ecosystem. So far i've given my take on the overall picture of my definition of agile. Now I want to introduce some of the different agile communities. I can only give a quick overview here, but I do include references so you can dig further if you like. Since i'm about to start giving more references, this is a good point to point out some sources for general information on agile methods. The web-center is the Agile Alliance a non-profit set up to encourage and research agile software development. For books I'd suggest overviews by Alistair Cockburn and Jim Highsmith. Craig Larman's book on agile development contains a very useful history of iterative development.
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What have we learned? What can writing we do better? These questions will lead you to ideas to change the process for the next iteration. In this way a process that starts off with problems can improve as the project goes on, adapting better to the team that uses. If self-adaptivity occurs within a project, it's even more marked across an organization. A consequence of self-adaptivity is that you should never expect to find a single corporate methodology.
Instead each team should not just choose their own process, but should also actively tune their process as they proceed with the project. While both published processes and the experience of other projects can act as an inspiration and a baseline, the developers professional responsibility is to adapt the process to the task at hand. Flavors of Agile development The term 'agile' refers to a philosophy of software development. Under this broad umbrella sits many more specific approaches such as Extreme Programming, Scrum, lean development, etc. Each of these more particular approaches has its own ideas, communities and leaders. Each community is a distinct group of its own but to be correctly called agile it should follow the same broad principles.
The agile methods, however, welcome change. They try to be processes that adapt and thrive on change, even to the point of changing themselves. Agile methods are people-oriented rather than process-oriented. The goal of engineering methods is to define a process that will work well whoever happens to be using. Agile methods assert that no process will ever make up the skill of the development team, so the role of a process is to support the development team in their work. In the following sections I'll explore these differences in more detail, so that you can understand what an adaptive and people-centered process is like, its benefits and drawbacks, and whether it's something you should use: either as a developer or customer of software.
The self-Adaptive process so far i've talked about adaptivity in the context of a project adapting its software frequently to meet the changing requirements of its customers. However there's another angle to adaptivity: that of the process changing over time. A project that begins using an adaptive process won't have the same process a year later. Over time, the team will find what works for them, and alter the process to fit. The first part of self-adaptivity is regular reviews of the process. Usually you do these with every iteration. At the end of each iteration, have a short meeting and ask yourself the following questions (culled from Norm Kerth ) What did we do well?
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The result of all of this is that agile methods have some significant changes in emphasis from engineering methods. The most internet immediate difference is that they are less document-oriented, usually emphasizing a smaller amount of documentation for a given task. In many ways they are rather code-oriented: following a route that says that the key part of documentation is source code. However I don't think this is the key point about agile methods. Lack of documentation is a symptom of two much deeper differences: Agile methods are adaptive rather than predictive. Engineering methods tend to try to plan out a large part of the software process in great detail for a long span of time, this works well until things change. So their nature is to resist change.
Engineering methodologies have been around for a long time. They've not been noticeable for being terribly successful. They are even less noted for being popular. The most frequent criticism of these methodologies is that they are bureaucratic. There's so much stuff to do to follow the methodology that the whole pace lukoil of development slows down. Agile methodologies developed as a reaction to these methodologies. For many people the appeal of these agile methodologies is their reaction to the bureaucracy of the engineering methodologies. These new methods attempt a useful compromise between no process and too much process, providing just enough process to gain a reasonable payoff.
from many short term decisions. This actually works pretty well as the system is small, but as the system grows it becomes increasingly difficult to add new features to the system. Furthermore bugs become increasingly prevalent and increasingly difficult to fix. A typical sign of such a system is a long test phase after the system is "feature complete". Such a long test phase plays havoc with schedules as testing and debugging is impossible to schedule. The original movement to try to change this introduced the notion of methodology. These methodologies impose a disciplined process upon software development with the aim of making software development more predictable and more efficient. They do this by developing a detailed process with a strong emphasis on planning inspired by other engineering disciplines - which is why i like to refer to them as engineering methodologies (another widely used term for them is plan-driven methodologies ).
I wrote it, like most of my essays, as part of trying to understand the topic. At that interests time i'd used Extreme Programming for several years after I was lucky enough to work with Kent Beck, ron Jeffries, don Wells, and above all the rest of the Chrysler ci had since had conversations and read books from other people who had. So in the essay i wanted to explore what were the similarities and differences between these methodologies. My conclusion then, which I still believe now, is that there were some fundamental principles that united these methodologies, and these principles were a notable contrast from the assumptions of the established methodologies. This essay has continued to be one of the most popular essays on my website, which means I feel somewhat bidden to keep it up to date. In its original form the essay both explored these differences in principles and provided a survey of agile methods as I then understood them. Too much has happened with agile methods since for me to keep up with the survey part, although I do provide some links to continue your explorations. The differences in principles still remain, and this discussion i've kept.
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Probably the most noticeable change to software process thinking in the last few years has been the appearance of the word 'agile'. We talk of agile software methods, of how to introduce agility into a development team, or of how to resist the impending storm of agilists determined to change well-established practices. This new movement grew out of the efforts of various people who dealt with software process in the 1990s, found them wanting, and looked for a new approach to software process. Most of the ideas were not new, indeed many people believed that much successful software had been built that way essay for a long time. There was, however, a view that these ideas had been stifled and not been treated seriously enough, particularly by people interested in software process. This essay was originally part of this movement. I originally published it in July 2000.