Implementing Scrum in-house a little less than a year ago, she and her team now develop in three-week sprint cycles, as opposed to their previous six-month milestones. Lemonier said she has found the team to be more empowered and have more internal awareness of what’s being accomplished.
Collaborative work, one of the tenets at agile’s inner core, allows her teams to look at a product backlog, and determine why a feature is important and if it can be accomplished in the sprint cycle, Lemonier said. “It also gives the team the opportunity to define what ‘done’ means,” she said, adding, “We tried to be textbook in the beginning, but it’s been an organic implementation.”
Of the initial agile adoption phase, Eckfeldt agreed that “things may be reasonably pure,” but then people start to see what works or not and begin “to look beyond the textbook versions of agile.”
Although some people view agile as a process best worked in pieces, and therefore can never truly be pure, others take what they regard as a pure approach. The Motley Fool, an Alexandria, Va.-based multimedia financial services company, define themselves as holistically agile. “It comes down to organizational acceptance—from the teams that are actually building the software and websites all the way to the execs. Everyone is accepting of it,” said Maxwell Keeler, vice president of The Motley Fool project management.
Prior to adopting Scrum, The Motley Fool took a more traditional approach of defining the scope, requirements and delivery date, oftentimes leaving the development teams waiting for the work, Keeler said. Now, since their company-wide Scrum “kickoff” in December 2007, they release every two weeks and make sure all teams are 100% utilized, he said.
Two years and 54 sprints later, Keeler considers the agile methodology a success, but estimated they are only about 80% aligned with “Orthodox Scrum.” Where they deviate, he said, is not following an estimation of hours to determine capacity, finding it was too much overhead for two-week sprints. They also bend rules about releasable products after each sprint, saying that during development, the product owner usually reviews 75% of the features and foregoes the final signoff at the end.
However, Keeler still believes The Motley Fool to be purely agile because the Scum methodology is accepted from the top down, despite some deviations along the way.
Agile methodologies can also never be followed religiously because every organization is different from its internal structure to what they develop in-house. Because of this, agile can never be followed stringently, said MWD’s Rotibi. “You have to be sensible,” she said. “A process is only as good as it’s meant to work.”
People may have adapted their own ways of doing things, Rotibi said, but they have taken short iterations, small teams and costumer involvement to a new level. “This way breaks down silos and that’s what agile is about, but it is also disciplined to ensure you’re able to deliver.”
Because of agile’s malleable structure, some skeptics also argue that it is not as structured as traditional approaches, citing less documentation and upfront design. However, Forrester’s West agreed with Rotibi that agile is actually driving more discipline into how people are doing software, but he said there is no “one religion.”