Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Enterprise Architecture: Have you failed at selling Agile?

Figured I would share thoughts on why so many large enterprises fail at selling Agile...

So, what does Agile mean to you? I bet that if you were to assemble ten people in a room, you could get fifteen distinct answers. Seriously, selling Agile requires an enterprise to not make up definitions to existing words. I have always been of the belief that the Rational Unified Process (RUP) promotes immaturity.

Visualize a capability maturity model (CMMi) only model out -1 thru -5 to also measure immaturity. We could borrow acronyms from the Government such as SNAFU and FUBAR to represent -1, and -2 respectively while -3 would be the Rational Unified Process. This is not to say that it isn't a good approach as the problem is more with how it is used.

Have you ever heard someone say that they customized a methodology? If Grady Booch were to walk into your enterprise, would he recognize it as being RUP or would it be FU beyond all recognition? I bet you never heard an enterprise say that they would use a methodology out of the box and learn what works and what doesn't before they start customizing it. The habit of shortcutting things based on gut feel sabotages agility.

Taking this one step further, consider the fact that the enterprise is filled with process weenies who are savage in their creation of best practices via comprehensive documentation that no one really reads or even understands. Within large enterprises, everything is important and it is very difficult to figure out what is more important, of course unless the process weenies create a process for this as well.

The real conversation centers around shared values of which absolutely zero Enterprise Architects I know champion as they are too busy doing thinly veiled strategy Powerpoints and playing with technology in order to focus on it. A wise architect once said, that those who always take a hybrid approach, suffer from a mental disorder. Minimally, hybrid approaches never result in purity nor perfection as they are driven by compromise and guarantee mediocrity.

Mediocrity in the enterprise is propagated by folks skipping past conversations centered on values and moving directly to ceremony. This is manifested by IT executives who talk about SCRUM and Extreme Programming. Of course, they will take one point from each such that they convince themselves that they are agile without acknowledging reality.

Agility never sells because it isn't yet a high priority resume item. CMMI sells not because it works, or even makes sense but because it looks good on a resume. For agile to sell, one has to elevate it to the level of buzzword on resume.

Have we also considered the fact that selling agile within an enterprise context continues to get more difficult? Ten years ago, an enterprise architect only had to sell several thousand people within the walls of their employer on a new concept. Back then, many IT executives actually understood IT and came up through its ranks. One could assume that a CIO who was a prior software developer would intuitively understand the pain of developing high quality working software. Nowadays, the IT executive rank is filled with folks who have never written software and convincing folks that things need to change is not as intuitive as before.

Additionally, we must look at the worst practices that are encouraged by folks from India in the context of outsourcing. Have you noticed that business customers never talk to developers anymore? Some people believe that the liaison model where folks in India are isolated helps with maturity. You probably understand that it is easier to use a metal detector to find unicorns in your sock drawer than it is to get folks in India to embrace agility. To some, the liasion model of outsourcing makes sense. I guess if you believe this, the a diet consisting of Twinkies will also help you lose weight is also easy to sell...

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