Advice to a CIO about Agile Development

Esther Schindler quoted me in her article, Getting Clueful: 7 Things CIOs Should Know About Agile Development, on Unfortunately, my advice got altered a little in the editing process. She says,

Consultant George Dinwiddie from iDIA Computing suggests using a burn-down chart to track project progress.

I actually recommend a burn-up chart to track project progress, and a burn-down chart to track iteration progress.  There are specific reasons that I think a burn-up chart is superior to a burn-down for tracking over the course of a project or release. I’ve been meaning to write a long post about this, but haven’t found the time. I just wanted to correct the record, in the mean time.

The full comments of my note to Esther:

If you don’t know anything else about Agile, know that it’s largely based on using feedback to drive the work and keep things on the desired track.

The use of feedback in Agile software development is pervasive. On a project level, if you use a burn-up chart to track the progress of a project, you’ll see how the progress is converging, or not, on the goal line and can take action if necessary. That action might be to move the goal line, or to make changes in the way the software is being produced to try to speed it up. On the lowest level, using Test Driven Development allows a developer to specify the next tiny thing the software is expected to do, and then get feedback when the code meets that expectation. When a developer asks the business Customer about a feature, he gets feedback on the desired goal. When the business Customer sees the incrementally growing software, she gets feedback on how well the software is converging on the desired goal.

In every way possible, reality should be tested against what is desired. The feedback should be generated with as little delay as possible. Reducing the time between when a decision is made and when it is validated will pay off in reduced waste.

This validation comes in many different forms, at different levels, and from different viewpoints. This is much more powerful than a single validation that must be perfect to be valuable.

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