News Stay informed about the latest enterprise technology news and product updates.

The latest trends from the Agile Alliance Technical Conference

The Agile development methodology has been around so long now it's easy to think people aren't taking the technology seriously. Expert Matthew Heusser explains what's going on.

It’s been 17 years since the Agile Manifesto was penned. Of the original seventeen writers, over half were programmers....

The Agile movement took over software development; now most of the teams I work with use standups, stories, and sprints. Meanwhile the Agile Alliance conference, which has grown from 900 attendees to 1,500 attendees in the four years I have attended, has been consistently decreasing its technical content. There are exceptions -- the DevOps track is growing -- but the programming and testing tracks have less interest. The decreasing interest in technical subjects mean fewer technical people are attending the conference, fewer are going to attend technical sessions, and the organizers, who will then see fewer attendees at technical sessions, will schedule fewer for the next year.

Something had to change, and it did.

In 2016, the Agile Alliance scheduled their first Agile Alliance Technical Conference, or AATC. This year I decided to attend to see what was happening.

The opening talk of the Agile Alliance Technical Conference 2017 was given by Ron Jeffries and Chet Hendrickson on test-driven development. The two speakers performed the bowling game kata, a form of deliberate practice in which a programmer (or two) solves a known problem, again and again, building skill while it’s happening. In this case the skill was test-driven development, and along the way, the two discussed quality, going faster, pair programming, and other aspects of "modern" Agile development.

Chet Hendrickson and Ron Jeffries (left to right) opening keynote
Chet Hendrickson and Ron Jeffries (left to right) opening keynote

Because a Ron and Chet talk is never quite the same talk twice, the two have been doing the bowling game kata as an exercise for at least a dozen years -- still, it seemed new to the audience.

Other sessions at the Agile Alliance Technical Conference included a keynote on extreme programming -- even though this practice just turned twenty years old -- as well as others on the fundamentals of test-driven development, refactoring and other introductory topics.

What was happening?

The technical renaissance

It’s easy to look at the data above and conclude that this change is a "very bad thing." The industry seems to be post-agile, which, interpreted at its worst, means "doing the stuff that is easy to adapt, and being pragmatic, which is code for never really doing the hard technical things at all."

But there is another explanation.

The night before the Agile Alliance Technical Conference, I ran into Linda Cook, an Alliance board member. Over dinner she explained that the whole purpose of the event was to draw a different crowd -- people who were not plugged into the conference circuit, and did not know about the new methods, but were hungry to learn.

The Agile Alliance Technical Conference filled up the ballroom of a major hotel in Boston with people interested in getting started with technical practices like TDD, refactoring, and clean code.

It is possible the Agile technical practices have reached the mainstream.

The diffusion of innovation

When Everett Rogers created his diffusion of innovation theory he described five steps: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, the Late Majority, and Laggards.

While the innovators create things and the early adopters will try anything, the early majority want to see what other people use for the solution, and the late majority want to see others exactly like them succeeding using the new tool or process. For that matter, they may need a little push or peer pressure to adopt the change; the late majority fears being left behind. Laggards only switch when the technology can no longer work in modern society (like riding horses in the 1940s) … or they retire.

What the attendees of the Agile Alliance Technical Conference saw were 300 people exactly like them, all at different levels of success with technical Agile practices. At the three-day conference I saw no mention of stories, standups or sprints. Nor, for that matter, was there much mention of whiz-bang, or magic technology, the kind of technology that innovators chase and is so popular: Javascript libraries, public-cloud self-replicating scaling magic and other such tools that, while valuable, tend to leave out coding.

Instead, people were talking about good code.

Proto-Agile, Agile, post-Agile

Each morning, before the conference, a few of us got together for Lean Coffee, an unplanned conversational meeting. Attendees would propose topics that interested them, then we would vote to decide what to talk about. One of the topics we discussed was the state of technical practices in the industry, specifically "Is extreme programming dead?" Again, the idea of post-Agile was floated.

Lean Coffee. Foreground left to right: Woody Zuill, Ardita Karaj
Lean Coffee. Foreground left to right: Woody Zuill, Ardita Karaj

That was when Woody Zuill, who sat at the table, began to talk. According to Woody, proto-Agile is "we know what we had before isn't working, and now we are discovering new things;" Agile is "We actually understand these modern methods and do them well;” and post-Agile is about continuing to innovate. Woody said that XP can't be dead, because he uses it every day.

It’s very hard to judge the temperature of the Agile Alliance Technical Conference, and even harder to take the temperature of an industry. What I see for certain is that people are still learning, still experimenting, still innovating in technical practices, while the older, tried practices that have been accepted as true are starting to spread. Test-driven development, refactoring, and "run clean" have gone from being strange ideas to things people want to learn about and make excuses for not doing.

The industry is moving forward.

Where are you now? Which way are you moving, and how fast?

Next Steps

Has Agile outlived its usefulness?

Agile vs. DevOps -- where we are today

Does Agile need to change to remain relevant?

This was last published in May 2017

Dig Deeper on Agile DevOps

PRO+

Content

Find more PRO+ content and other member only offers, here.

Join the conversation

2 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

Do you think Agile has strayed too far from its technology roots?
Cancel
My perception is not that Agile has strayed as much as it is that leaders want to claim they are Agile when they are not. I have consulted to fortune 500 companies that would like to say they are agile but when you follow their release process it is all waterfall with one way emergency fixes. They can't back out a change once committed and yet the fact that they create the emergency fixes in a sprint - they claim agile!  So in summary - Agile is spot on, peoples desire to call their flawed processes Agile gives the appearance of straying.
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchMicroservices

TheServerSide

SearchCloudApplications

SearchAWS

SearchBusinessAnalytics

SearchFinancialApplications

SearchHealthIT

Close