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Agile development practices: Three predictions for 2014

Agile expert Yvette Francino predicts that Agile development practices will gain momentum in 2014.

It's no secret that Agile development practices have taken the software industry by storm. Application lifecycle management, or ALM, vendors continue to come out with products and tools that help development teams embrace collaboration and continuously improve. Looking to 2014, I predict Agile will mature in three primary ways:

  • More "custom" Agile processes
  • Growth of large-scale Agile
  • Continued growth of DevOps

A morphing of Agile practices

Scrum, the Agile methodology of choice for many software development organizations, has become so popular that it is often used synonymously with the word Agile. However, the lean methodology, kanban, has also gained popularity in the software development industry. Many organizations are taking ideas from kanban, Scrum, Extreme Programming or other methodologies, and creating custom processes that suit their own organizations.

Staying within the strict parameters of a particular methodology, in and of itself, is not particularly 'Agile.'

"[In 2014] more emphasis will be placed on the practice rather than dogma. What works will replace what is fashionable and theologically correct, especially in places where measurement and 'hard' data replaces arm-waving. Measurement will help show what works, and value will become quantified rather than talked about theoretically," says Donald Reifer, President and CTO at Reifer Consultants LLC.

In the recent SearchSoftwareQuality article, Mixing Agile and continuous delivery for disciplined development, we read how Jeff Porter was able to create an Agile methodology mashup resulting in "a decade of structured development and on-time delivery at FamilySearch, an online nonprofit genealogy service provider."

Continuous improvement and adaptability are cornerstone traits of Agile. Therefore, staying within the strict parameters of a particular methodology, in and of itself, is not particularly "Agile." There has been and will continue to be a lot of "morphing" in order to find what works best for an organization. That being said, organizations that cherry-pick only the pieces of Agile that they like may find themselves in trouble, especially if they are new to Agile. The mixing of best practices works better with organizations that have already reached Agile maturity and are looking for new ways to improve.

Agile at scale

With its continuing popularity, we are now seeing Agile used in developing large-scale enterprise products across multiple geographies. Scrum was originally intended for small, co-located teams, so more organizations will be turning to methodologies designed to handle enterprise needs like Dean Leffingwell's Scaled Agile Framework, or SAFe.

In a recent Q&A with Mike Bonamassa, president of Blue Agility Consulting, Bonamassa said, "I think the community needs to separate Agile into, say, small Agile and scaled or large Agile. They are two very different things. In Agile on the small side, developers can just go along with the manifesto tenets, such as focusing more on working software than documentation. The challenge really comes in when you try to scale that up to a large organization, which requires a more prescriptive approach. When trying to get several hundred people working together and delivering value every two weeks, you have to put aside some small-Agile practices."

Continued growth of DevOps

More companies will be including DevOps in their organizational structures with the aim of automating deployments and implementing a continuous delivery model for their customers.

"My prediction is that the DevOps goal of extending lean/Agile end to end, from an idea to production, will become a major channel for existing organizations that are trying to become Agile. It seems to offer the most promising method of breaking Agile out of the development ghetto by explicitly involving Ops et al. without the 'development über alles' mentality that early Agile initiatives are prone to, and provides an acceptable banner for other orgs to join the parade. Any lean analysis of such an organization will likely find the major waste there is in getting from integration test to prod, which will drive this trend," says Mark Swanson, senior software engineer at Altisource Labs.

At Agile 2013, SearchSoftwareQuality Site Editor James Denman reported on DevOps research done by keynote speaker Gene Kim. According to Kim, Denman says, "high-performing DevOps teams are more Agile (with 30 times more frequent deployments and 8,000 times faster cycle times) and are more reliable (with twice as many successful changes and a fraction of the mean time to response)."

It's an easy bet that Agile development practices will continue to gain momentum in 2014. Early adopters are at an advantage, having been through the growing pains, and now are looking at ways to continue to up their game. By adapting their processes and taking advantage of DevOps, the Agile movement will continue to see success and growth.

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How do you think Agile development practices will evolve in 2014?
I agree with the prediction that agile will be adapted for larger scale use. Increasingly my clients are looking at how an agile project management approach impacts on their programme management (for multiple, inter-dependent projects) and for their organisation wide portfolio management, prioritising and allocating resources across all initiatives.
I also think there is a strong movement away from 'agile purists' who want the project approach to be 'technically correct' to 'agile pragmatists' who are keen to develop a version of agile that applies to their organisation and its culture.
We've suffered too long with Agilists. We've also forgotten to think about the client that the company is serving and how it serves them, let alone the cultures involved.

Scrum is brilliant in the right context. Kanban too. SAFe will also work very well in large scale single product environments where Scrum/Kanban are already well adopted. People are also forgetting the project environment. i.e. Corporate IT and consulting. Here, Scrum, Kanban and SAFe are not ideal. We need project managers, sponsors, active real-client involvement so DSDM is perfect as it matches pre-existing governance plus the sales cycles and sales pipelines and the governance that clients of consulting companies will expect. It also scales just like a PRINCE2 project.

Finally, some companies actually need all four approaches (e.g. large scale ERP s/w products installed at a client) so we have to mix and match best practices.

As for DevOps, that is an enabler for good Agile. It simply needs to be done to make it work.