On Agile Development and Why It’s Done So Wrong…

I’ve been in several organizations where we used an “agile” development process. I termed what is commonly known as Agile Development in lower case and quoted because most organizations I’ve been in practice Agile in spirit as opposed to canonically. Granted, any process needs to fit the particular organization, but many organizations’ idea of Agile is a focus on quick delivery. The end result? Lots of technical debt.

For instance, I once worked with one organization where they split their “agile” process into three stages: Sprint Planning, Development, and Repaying Technical Debt. About 10% was focused on sprint planning (which is reasonable), 60% was spent on development, and 30% was spent on repaying technical debt. When I heard that 30% spent on repaying technical debt, I about  flipped my lid! To me, allocating that much time to technical debt indicates to me that one very specific point in the principles of the Agile Manifesto was completely missed:

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design

Unfortunately, lots of organizations miss this item, and also unfortunately, this particular item is kind of far down in the manifesto principles list. To me, it should be the first issue. Why? Mainly because in my experience, if you take the time to design, then you actually avert paying a lot of technical debt down the line due to a bad design – or lack thereof.

I understand that one of the major tenets of Agile is “working software over comprehensive documentation.” I totally agree with this. But in my experience, the practice usually translates to zero to no design. It’s not that I want to have rich technical specifications, but especially if you’re doing object-oriented programming, not having at the very least a class diagram and associated sequence diagrams to describe the interactions is well… a crime from my perspective.


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