Thursday, May 10, 2012

If you could point someone to just one link... a quick summary of what agile is, which one would it be?

This is a question I just got asked. And I'm honestly not sure. It would depend a bit on who that "someone" was. But here's a very general definition for agile software development (ignoring the application of agile to other disciplines such as marketing) that I think might be OK.

Agile is an approach to developing software that:
  • Focuses on prioritizing the most valuable features first
  • Organizes work into short (typically 2 – 4 week) chunks of time typically known as iterations
  • Builds and tests one or more complete new features inside each iteration
  • Shows and discusses what they accomplished with the customer at the end of each iteration allowing regular feedback and guiding of the effort
  • Acknowledges that it is nearly impossible to figure out completely up front what people want from a software system, and that their opinions and business needs will change as they start to see it built. 
  • Relies on cross functional teams (developers, testers, whatever else is required)working as a self-organizing group to accomplish their goals. A good example of a self-organizing team outside software is a sports team, e.g. think how soccer players collaborate with the end objective of scoring goal(s).
  • Employs a number of technical disciplines to allow incremental development, with a particular emphasis on the importance of regularly integrating and testing code with as high a degree of automation as is sensible
I'm sure there are much better quick'n'simple overviews along the lines of "What is agile?", but it's surprising what you get if you google that. Based on the couple top links I visited it wasn't ideal as an explanation for a  general audience.