I'll confess, one of the more surprising results of my recent research into Agile development in practice is the large number of motives to go Agile. From eliminating useless documentation to shortening development cycles to making the schedule more predictable, there were as many different reasons for Agile as people I interviewed.
Perhaps that's part of the success story of Agile: partly by design, partly by historical accident, the Agile movement addressed many different needs. In this way, Agile is a lot like the Protestant Reformation. Remember junior high school history class, when we heard that Luther's protest conveniently occurred just when secular princes were looking for ways to gain independence from Rome? The Agile movement arrived when more was happening in the technology industry than just the disgust of developers with schedules in which no one believed, or projects that didn't deliver what the customer wanted.
Sometimes, personal or organizational change depends less on what new techniques you choose, and more on the fact that you're making any choice at all. For example, to some degree, losing weight is about making a commitment to some dieting technique, to be named later. Which diet you choose matters, of course, but it's not the sole determinant of weight loss.
In doing research here at Forrester, I keep having that thought as I skip merrily from topic to topic. Thinking about adopting some requirements tools? Good for you! The acknowledgement that you need better ways to track and analyze what customers want you to build, rather than what you prefer to build, is the first step towards greater product success. Before you choose the right tool, congratulate yourself on making that commitment.
Feel like the development team is going to lose its collective mind trying to apply some waterfall methodology? Congratulations! You're ready to look at the product development process in a whole new way. Soon, you'll be ready to pick the Agile methodology that works for you.
In my encounters with Agile development, including the research that I'm doing now, I've seen two perspectives on the Agile methodology (pick whichever one you prefer):
Agile as a creed. One type of Agile enthusiast treats the methodology of choice as a set of firm guidelines, to be followed or ignored (at your peril). The closer you get to orthodoxy, as the Pharisees communicate by voice or in print, the better the results.
Agile as an ethos. The other species of Agile enthusiast sees the methodology as a guide to action. Perfect adherence to its principles are impossible in an imperfect world, so the goal is to add a healthy dose of Agile to the blend of different techniques and imperatives.
We're looking for product managers who have played a role in Agile development efforts. Specifically, we want to talk to both (1) PMs who have been in development groups that started with an Agile approach, and (2) PMs who were part of a transition to Agile within a larger organization.
If either description applies to you, in your current job or an earlier one, please drop me a line. The interview will last about 30 minutes.