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Thoughts from KMC

"Agile = Scrum" and Other Agile Myths

Liandra Bassiane

October 2017

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As an agile coach and business analyst who has worked with agile principles extensively here and abroad, I recently spoke at the Agile Africa Conference 2017 about the challenges I’ve encountered on my "Journey as an Agile Coach/BA/IM/SM."

My journey has often been fraught with stakeholder misconceptions about the principles of agile development. Though its popularity in recent years makes it seem like a new concept, the foundations of agile were actually developed in the 1980's and 1990's and its success extends into business processes beyond just software development.

What is Agile?

The ruling principle of agile movement and its methodologies is to offer businesses a dynamic and flexible approach to development which adjusts according to customer demands, the economic climate or innovation and delivers true value to the customer.

What Agile is not

These days, many may claim to be experts in agile, but its incorrect application means that businesses either end up with a mess they paid a lot of money for, or decide not to adopt the agile at all. This is why it is so important to bust the myths about agile...

Myth 1: Agile = Scrum

Though Scrum has become synonymous with agile in many ways, it is actually a project management framework for managing complex projects under the agile umbrella of methodologies. Scrums’ popularity lies in its application inside and outside of the IT industry.

The complementing methodologies or principles we use at KMC with Scrum to holistically achieve an agile outcome, are:

  • Lean Project Management – eliminating waste;
  • Extreme Programming (XP) – technical excellence;
  • Crystal Methodology – Smaller teams and continuous learning;
  • Kanban – managing team efficiency.

Myth 2: Minimum Viable Project (MVP) = Minimum Features you can get away with

When the MVP is perceived as a 'half-baked' version of what the client needs it causes concern for early adopters. We prefer to define the MVP as the minimum features needed to prove our business position or value so that we can get feedback and learn as much as possible as quickly as possible. Or, the minimum features that will result in the greatest business learning value.

Myth 3: User Experience Design (UX) is only there to make everything look pretty

In a true agile process, the work of the UX Experience analyst is critical for managing the process of catering for the system user needs and business requirements. They do this through continuous user research, interviews, testing and creating high or low fidelity prototypes for a more affordable testing process according to the lean management principle.

Myth 4: Agile is not transparent

If you are not a part of the core team, this is a valid concern in an agile process. To mitigate it, I have previously included stakeholders from governance in the testing, showing test coverage and compiling the integration test reports. This way the team have confidence that governance has been followed.

In the past, we've also introduced 'lunch-and-learn' sessions where teams showcase what they've been working on. This has been effective in driving change and transparency in the process.

When does Agile fail?

Apart from businesses adopting the above myths, a study by Computer Weekly and TechTarget identified the other reasons agile fails as: lack of experience with agile methods (44%), company culture at odds with agile culture (42%) and lack of management support (38%).

The barriers to successful adoption of agile were: the inability to change company culture (44%), lack of staff with relevant agile experience (35%) and general resistance to change in the organisation (44%).

The agile movement is evolving daily and once implemented it takes time and consistent effort to change perceptions and interpret results. Including an agile coach in your project team will drive and demystify the process and help you see real results.

KMC follow a holistic approach to implementing agile processes for our clients by:

  1. Providing agile coaching to equip the talent within your business and establish continuity;
  2. Identifying and working with ‘influencers’ within the teams to combat resistance and effect a change in company culture;
  3. Incorporating transparency so that management and teams are aware of who is doing what;
  4. Drawing from a vast “toolbox” of agile methodologies such as the lean approach, Scrum and others according to your businesses’ complex individual needs.

Learn more about how KMC use agile delivery practices to gain the optimal result, here

Liandra Bassiane