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Best of TechBeacon 2015: Top 10 agile stories

Mike Barton Managing Editor, TechBeacon

We're planning lots of great coverage of agile and related topics in 2016. But for now, in these last days of 2015, we bring you the top 10 agile stories from 2015. 

Is the Agile Manifesto dead?

Concerns over the manner in which the agile approach to software development is being practiced these days prompted Andrew Hunt, one of the founding authors of the original Agile Manifesto, to label the movement a failure. In so doing, Hunt gave fresh voice to a sentiment that several others within the developer community have expressed, with growing frustration, in recent years. The big question for them and for all agile practitioners who agree is: What now?

Building a winning DevOps business case

You've heard the positive buzz about DevOps — and so has your management — but you can't build a business case on buzz alone. Why should your organization invest in the changes required to adopt DevOps? Here's how to answer that question, and build a winning DevOps business case.

When agile is the wrong choice for your organization

A fellow agile trainer recently told me that many of his customers are fleeing scrum to get away from the zealots. I sighed and nodded in agreement—all too familiar with those agile enthusiasts who repeat the "agile isn't a silver bullet" mantra—and then proceed to recommend it for everything. Most would agree that not everything must be agile, but when you ask for examples of what the agile methodology is not good for, you get blank stares. To figure out when you should and shouldn't use agile, you need to understand how products evolve in the market, determine where your product fits on that continuum, and reexamine agile in that light.

How agile is killing management, and boosting productivity

In his speech given at MIT, entitled Leading by Omission, Semco Partners' CEO, Ricardo Semler described a textile mill with a red brick building that had a canteen, looms, an operator at every station, a supervisor for every few operators, and a hierarchical management structure that extended all the way up to the owner. That business, which existed in 1633, was anything but agile. Four centuries later, much of the world has gone from semi-literate monarchies without indoor plumbing to flourishing democracies, instant worldwide communication, and ambitious plans to create a colony on Mars. But the basic corporate structure remains the same. It doesn't have to be that way. Here's how agile principles applied to the business, will greatly reduce middle management and streamline operations.

Building an agile team: Go from fantasy to reality

You may think you're part of an agile team, but there's a good chance that's just a fantasy. This was the situation in my organization when I arrived from a startup environment that had a much better understanding of agile. In my new organization, a large enterprise, people thought they were agile because they had reduced their development cycle from four week sprints down to two-weeks. But that was a fantasy. In reality, their drop cycle was still four weeks long, different teams were dependent on each other, and releases were still being planned six to nine months in advance—and then getting delayed. Sound familiar? Are you hearing the roar of water as it quickly loses potential energy? Here's what it takes to be agile. 

Go agile to be more competitive—not just to cut costs

A more agile delivery method for customer-facing applications makes sense for a number of reasons, but not necessarily because it lowers cost. Agile, first and foremost, helps deliver the highest and most relevant user value or a sprint toward a "Minimum Viable Product (MVP)," a term first coined by SyncDev, Inc. CEO Frank Robinson.

Enter the Nexus: Ken Schwaber on scaling scrum and the future of agile

Ken Schwaber is best known as the co-creator of scrum, founder of The Scrum Alliance, and head of As president of Advanced Development Methods (ADM), a consultancy that helps organizations improve software development practices, he has been quietly working on Nexus, a guide for scaling scrum in large-scale agile projects. His concept of Scaled Professional Scrum (SPS) forms the core of Nexus, which he describes as "the exoskeleton of scaled scrum." TechBeacon caught up with Ken to talk about his new emphasis on helping organizations scale agile, Nexus, and what comes next.

Scaling agile: 8 misconceptions that hold teams back

So your company has decided to adopt agile as its go-to methodology for software development. Chances are you got here because there were one or two rogue teams who felt constrained by the traditional waterfall model and wanted to try something different. They started following the 12 principles of agile software development and produced positive results. Now, the rest of the organization wants to follow suit. If it worked well for one or two teams, it'll be even better for 10, right? Maybe not. Too many cooks might just spoil the software.

Business strategy meets the Lean startup: Taking lessons from agile

What is business strategy? Michael Porter presented a succinct definition in his seminal article in the Harvard Business Review, first published in 1996: "The essence of strategy is choosing to perform activities differently than rivals do." Strategy is how a company wins against the competition. A well formulated strategy clearly communicates what it means for the company to win, states where the company should invest in solving problems for customers, and maps how they'll solve these problems with solutions drawn from their competitive core.

Managing agile and waterfall together

It's rare to find a software organization that follows a single methodology to the letter. Agile shops commonly use a mixture of agile techniques morphed into a custom methodology that's right for their organization. But mixing agile and waterfall? Some scrum and Extreme Programming (XP) purists would shudder at the thought! Yet managing agile and waterfall in the same project is a reality that needs to be dealt with. Whether working with a third-party vendor or with internal teams that haven't made the switch, managing a hybrid project is often necessary. Let's stop the methodology wars and talk about ways in which agile and waterfall not only coexist but play well together.

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