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Getting Teams to Embrace Agile

Establishing an open framework goes a long way

By Margo McCall

Brown-bag lunches are a start in encouraging software development teams to embrace agile methods. But a flexible, easy-to-use framework goes a lot further. Per Kroll, project leader for IBM's open source Eclipse Process Framework Project, shared details of the company's Agile Evaluation Framework during the 2008 SD West conference. The framework doesn't require teams to adhere to a long list of rigid processes in order to embrace the new development approach. IBM is using it to encourage its 35,000 developers to adopt agile methods.

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As a first step, team members spend 15 minutes assessing some of their organization's current development processes, then pick several to focus on. Another 15 minutes is spent discussing the results, and a half-hour listing actions to take. The final stages are implementing the actions and sharing experiences.

Per Kroll

"We want to make it easy for people to use whatever processes they want," said Kroll. "The team should be clear on practices they want to follow."

During discussions on the assessment results, Kroll said teams should take note of significant scores, celebrate good scores, and talk about low scores. "The assessment-driven approach is designed to avoid pushing a process on them," he said.

No matter the method, a team's priority should always be developing quality software. However, older development methods don't always accomplish that. "Before, you made a long list of unfinished improvements. Then the organization ended the project and nobody did anything about it," Kroll noted. 

Another way agile differs from previous methods is in ownership of the process and the software it produces. In agile, the entire team owns both. "We want people to own their own process," Kroll said. "We really want this to be a tool that a team is using and owning."

But teams shouldn't embrace agile for its own sake. "I always get a bit concerned when people say 'I want to go agile.' You need to know why you want to go agile," Kroll said. CW (March 2008)



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