Improving Wetware

Because technology is never the issue

Year 15 of the five year plan to retire the mainframe

Posted by Pete McBreen 09 Jan 2022 at 00:32

I heard about this project in the early years of the Agile methodologies, another case of planning for the best case and then failing to realize that their reality check bounced. After an overrun of one or two years you would have thought that there would need to be a radical reappraisal of the approach.

Since then I have seen multiple projects which were supposedly agile that seem to have not heard of the first principle, early and continuous delivery of valuable software. One failure mode is to spend a lot of time in the project initiation activities, or gathering and documenting all requirements before starting to deliver software. Another, probably worse failure mode is to develop a framework for delivering the application, with the thought that this will make the eventual delivery of the application faster.

My take is that it is OK to invest in framework development, but not to do it as part of delivering business value in a project. The problem is similar to what used to happen in the early days of OO projects. The team would spend too much time building a framework that in the end turned out not to help the overall project, but added a lot of delivery risk.

If a company has money and people to burn, then it can make sense to either extract a framework from an existing application or speculatively create a framework. But this must be treated as an investment and must not be on the critical path for any real project until it has been proven out.

For normal projects, it is OK to spend one or two iterations at the start to build up some infrastructure and components for use, but after three iterations the project should be delivering real features to the user community. If you manage to go ten iterations without delivering customer value, the project is not agile, even if it is doing some of the agile ceremonies.