Even though the flexibility enabled by Agile development propelled it from being a fringe approach to a popular software development methodology in the last decade, the Waterfall approach is still well ingrained today, particularly in large organizations. In last week’s blog post, Agile Series Part I: Does an All-Agile Approach make sense?, we looked at balancing the risks of an all-Agile approach with the needs of an organization. It is tempting to think that all projects should be handled in an Agile way.
I remember when I first heard about Agile techniques in business and read an article in the Harvard Business Review titled, Why Good Projects Fail Anyway. Agile wasn’t even mentioned, but the idea of “rapid results” project management gave me a new perspective on how to approach large IT initiatives.
I became a believer in the basic tenets of Agile – short term planning, iterative and incremental development, focused accountability and fast-succeed/fast-fail results. It made sense then, and it makes sense today. Or does it?
For those of us who have served in the military, camaraderie is the key ingredient to its way of life and what makes the military so special. The constant rotation in duty stations and regular deployments requires that a culture is in place to always provide military members a sense of belonging wherever they go. The tight knitted bond, formed through countless hours working side-by-side in life threatening environments, allows its members to achieve unparalleled success beyond the capability of any one person. A perfect example is my deployment to Afghanistan. I was deployed to a unit I had never worked with before to do a job I had never done before, and the responsibilities were daunting. But through our shared experience, the team and I became a family away from home, and that bond empowered me to succeed at my tasks.
Requirements constitute the cornerstone of any project. I typically use the metaphor of building a house when explaining to clients that requirements create the vision or foundation that drives the project from design to completion. Just as a successful custom home builder will involve his clients in all phases of the project from design to framing to finish, the successful technology team will actively engage the business users. Yet, so many projects struggle and fail when their vision is blurred and unclear. When I looked for some hard evidence on this, I found a scary statistic referenced from a MetaData study (now part of Gartner) that 60-80 percent of project failures can be attributed directly to poor requirements gathering, analysis, and management.