14 May 2010

Agile Then and Now

This past week the Agile Ottawa group hosted Craig Larman for a great session on Scaling Lean and Agile for Large, Multi-Site Teams. There was a great crowd of 60-70 people, and there would have been more if not for a late afternoon traffic problem that closed a major highway! Anyway, Craig said that he has spent the last few years coaching groups on how to scale up Agile to large organizations (of course only as a last resort after attempting to keep things small).

The interesting part of this talk was that it's now beyond obvious that Agile approaches are not only acceptable in large corporate environment, but they're becoming almost required as the business advantage of the approach is becoming clear. In short, Agile is indeed well into the mainstream of the technology adoption curve.

I've been involved in the Agile community for almost 10 years now, and it's quite heartening to see this level of adoption. But let's rewind to the halfway point of my Agile career, to May 2005.

Craig spoke to Agile Ottawa almost exactly 5 years ago, with an attendance of about 10 people. Craig's topic for the evening was Bloodletting. He equated the rate and depth of Agile adoption with the 150 years it took to finally abandon bloodletting as a medical practice. In that case, the proponents of bloodletting literally had to die off in order for the practice to be discontinued. I'm not sure if that's the case in software development, but certainly the sentiment is the same.

So, let's compare Craig's two Agile Ottawa sessions. In 2005 there was a small crowd and the talk was intended to educate us that the adoption of agile wasn't going to be easy (and indeed hadn't been to that point), and some people were never going to accept and would have to die off in the figurative sense. In 2010, Agile Ottawa had a record crowd to hear Craig speak about how to implement Agile in large and very large scale system development efforts. It was not longer 'if' it could be done, but 'how'.

There's still a long way to go, but the difference in the tone of the two sessions certainly highlighted to me that we're on the right path towards much more effective ways of delivering systems.

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