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The Art of Agile Development

Cover of The Art of Agile Development by James Shore... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
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Enter Agility

Will agile development help you be more successful? It might. Agile development focuses on achieving personal, technical, and organizational successes. If you’re having trouble with any of these areas, agile development might help.

Organizational Success

Agile methods achieve organizational successes by focusing on delivering value and decreasing costs. This directly translates to increased return on investment. Agile methods also set expectations early in the project, so if your project won’t be an organizational success, you’ll find out early enough to cancel it before your organization has spent much money.

Specifically, agile teams increase value by including business experts and by focusing development efforts on the core value that the project provides for the organization. Agile projects release their most valuable features first and release new versions frequently, which dramatically increases value. When business needs change or when new information is discovered, agile teams change direction to match. In fact, an experienced agile team will actually seek out unexpected opportunities to improve its plans.

Agile teams decrease costs as well. They do this partly by technical excellence; the best agile projects generate only a few bugs per month. They also eliminate waste by cancelling bad projects early and replacing expensive development practices with simpler ones. Agile teams communicate quickly and accurately, and they make progress even when key individuals are unavailable. They regularly review their process and continually improve their code, making the software easier to maintain and enhance over time.

Technical Success

Extreme Programming, the agile method I focus on in this book, is particularly adept at achieving technical successes. XP programmers work together, which helps them keep track of the nitpicky details necessary for great work and ensures that at least two people review every piece of code. Programmers continuously integrate their code, which enables the team to release the software whenever it makes business sense. The whole team focuses on finishing each feature completely before starting the next, which prevents unexpected delays before release and allows the team to change direction at will.

In addition to the structure of development, Extreme Programming includes advanced technical practices that lead to technical excellence. The most well-known practice is test-driven development, which helps programmers write code that does exactly what they think it will. XP teams also create simple, ever-evolving designs that are easy to modify when plans change.

Personal Success

Personal success is, well, personal. Agile development may not satisfy all of your requirements for personal success. However, once you get used to it, you’ll probably find a lot to like about it, no matter who you are:

Executives and senior management

They will appreciate the team’s focus on providing a solid return on investment and the software’s longevity.

Users, stakeholders, domain experts, and product managers

They will appreciate their ability to influence the direction of software development, the team’s focus on delivering useful and valuable software, and increased delivery frequency.

Project and product managers

They will appreciate their ability to change direction as business needs change, the team’s ability to make and meet commitments, and improved stakeholder satifaction.

Developers

They will appreciate their improved quality of life resulting from increased technical quality, greater influence over estimates and schedules, and team autonomy.

Testers

They will appreciate their integration as first-class members of the team, their ability to influence quality at all stages of the project, and more challenging, less repetitious work.

Working on agile teams has provided some of the most enjoyable moments in my career. Imagine the camaraderie of a team that works together to identify and deliver products of lasting value, with each team member enthusiastically contributing to a smooth-running whole. Imagine how it feels to take responsibility for your area of expertise, whether technical, business, or management, with the rest of the team trusting your professional judgment and ability. Imagine how pleasant it is to address the frustrations of your project and to see quality improve over time.

Agile development changes the game. Developing and delivering software in a new way will take a lot of work and thought. Yet if you do it consistently and rigorously, you’ll experience amazing things: you’ll ship truly valuable software on a regular basis. You’ll demonstrate progress on a weekly basis. You’ll have the most fun you’ve ever had in software development.

Ready? Let’s go.

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