Leffingwell at heart of 'agile' movement
Dean Leffingwell is chief methodologist of Boulder-based Scaled Agile Inc. and an expert in agile software development. Leffingwell has published three books on software development, including 2011's "Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs and the Enterprise." Leffingwell also served as chief methodologist for Rally Software Development Corp.
Leffingwell's expertise includes helping larger companies scale agile practices across their organization.
The Boulder County Business Report recently asked Leffingwell in an email Q-and-A about agile and how it's changing businesses inside and outside the software industry.
Question: First off, could you explain for laymen what "agile" means?
Leffingwell: We work exclusively in the context of scaling agile in the larger software enterprise, applying the Scaled Agile Framework (see ScaledAgileFramework.com), which we have developed and made public for this specific purpose. Generally, Agile development at scale can be considered from four perspectives.
1. A set of test-first and highly incremental software development practices, designed to improve endemic code quality.
2. New software project management practices that focus on delivering working, tested software every two weeks.
3. Program-level alignment to a common, larger mission. Synchronizing planning, development, integration, delivery and customer feedback.
4. A set of Lean leadership principles, that include respect for people, continuous improvement, product development flow and executive sponsorship for a Lean Agile operating mode.
Q: If I'm a businessperson, but not in software or IT, what should I know about it?
Leffingwell: Only that your software suppliers should be committed to far more rapid delivery of higher quality software than ever before. You will see more software, more quickly, and your feedback is required and integral to the ongoing development process.
Q: How is agile changing how software developers work?
Leffingwell: Individuals are reorganized into agile teams with new roles and responsibilities. Individuals and teams have a much higher degree of empowerment, and increased accountability. Functional barriers between development, test and business are broken down. Every team member shares responsibility for delivering quality, tested working code every two weeks.
Q: How can we know if agile is here to stay, and how could it evolve?
Leffingwell: Agile is not a fad. It's a mega trend that is revolutionizing software development worldwide. It is being adopted for one simple reason: It works better than anything we have done before. Software/business outcomes are better, and that goodness spreads from users to customers to management to development teams. I've been at this for 40 years now, and have seen three separate waves of development practices overtake the industry, with agile being the latest. I wouldn't even hazard a guess as to what happens after agile, but we have to go through agile to find it.
Q: Agile seems to mostly change how software engineers work. How is it affecting businesses outside the software world?
Leffingwell: The world is increasingly dependent on software, and whatever isn't now, soon will be. Agile development is for software developers, software teams, and software businesses. It improves business outcomes in one of the world's most important industries, one which embodies a large percentage of the world's new intellectual property. Better software makes the world a better place.
Q: Agile seems to be a lot about quick changes and a certain degree of improvisation. Software developers might love it, but are "the bean counters" or "the suits" worried about this new approach? How do agile advocates address their concerns?
Leffingwell: Simply: focus on results. All major changes cause some degree of heartburn and consternation as everyone's job is impacted. Change is hard, and it's easy to get caught up in the cultural and organizational impact of such a large change. But we have found that when teams focus on and achieve better results, they will eventually have the wind at their backs with management and executives. Leaders still need to lead, and now they must lead in a new paradigm. We do challenge them to do so as part of every Lean/Agile rollout. In the end, it's simple economics after all. What works, spreads.
Q: Tell us about your company, Scaled Agile. What do you do, what type of clients do you work with and how big are you?
Leffingwell: Scaled Agile Inc. is a new Colorado company founded by Colin O'Neill and Drew Jemilo. I joined forces with them so that they could manage service delivery and increase the scope, impact and industry benefits of Scaled Agile. Even more importantly for me, they are helping me set up and deliver training and certifications services around the Scaled Agile Framework. After all, if people are going to do new things differently, they have to know how to do what they are about to do.
More breaking news...
Bug eyes inspire University of Colorado engineer
Cities vie to be part of 2014 bike race