XITASO Tech Talk: What is Agile?

Christian Mika talked about his understanding of agile software development in one of the weekly XITASO Tech Talks.

We walked quickly through the roots of agile software development and discussed the agile manifesto and its implications on our daily work.

Why and when did people start to think about an alternative approach to software development? Which people were involved?
Christian: What we today call agile evolved in the mid-nineties. Different people started working with so-called lightweight approaches to software development. They were searching for alternatives to traditional waterfally methodologies that they felt to be heavy weighted because of the strict processes, regulations and management practices involved. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland were working on Scrum, Kent Beck developed Extreme Programming aided by Ron Jeffries and Ward Cunningham and Alistair Cockburn established Crystal to name a few.

You talked a lot about the Agile Manifesto? What is it?
Christian: The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was published in 2001 by its 17 original signatories. Among them were the most influential software developers of that time. They laid the groundwork for modern software development, for the way we are doing our work today.

Is it difficult to follow the Agile Manifesto in everyday business life?
Christian: It is a big challenge to follow the Manifesto in our regular work life. It changes the way how we are doing our work and it affects others that are not directly involved in software development as well. It is a really difficult and infinite process but despite all the obstacles well worth trying.

At XITASO we are using agile development techniques for a long time. Why do you think that it is still important to have a talk like this?
Andreas Stuiber (team leader, at XITASO since 2012): The SCRUM process as one special way of agile software development is only a framework. It fits perfectly good for us, but this doesn’t mean we are perfect yet. There is always room for improvements. Tech talks like this help to remind you about this fact and let the whole company think together.

Does the agile approach also have drawbacks compared to traditional software development?
Christian Heinrich (software developer, at XITASO since 2014): If the customer is not used to work with an agile team or company he most likely expects a full description of the software and of all the features that he is going to buy before the development starts. But the agile process will not be able to describe all the details in advance. Which features will be implemented and in which way only evolves during the project in close collaboration with the customer. Just as one of the statements in the Agile Manifesto says: “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”.

Take home message:

  • Being agile is not a technique, it’s a mind set!
  • Becoming agile is an infinite process. There is no final state for agile.

Further reading: