Great Software Balances Agility with Discipline

Today the UK government begins the next phase to roll out a new benefits programme called Universal Credit. The phase-by-phase roll out programme is based on the desire to get it right, rather than rushing through a system that doesn’t meet the need of the UK taxpayer. The initial trials of the programme in the North West of England have given the programme teams the opportunity to tweak software features and operational processes before this next release phase. They are delivering incrementally and iteratively rather than big bang.

In July 2013 the Government ceased their all-out agile development approach for this programme. That’s not to say agile wasn’t the right approach, today agile is a fundamental principle of the Digital by Default service standard. The challenge faced across both public and private sectors of any country is trying to introduce agile into an organisation that historically follows a prescriptive waterfall approach, not just in software development but across different functional areas and operational processes that follow practices such as ITIL and rigid procurement.

The software development world is split into 2 camps; agile and waterfall.

The agile camp believes in the incremental and iterative development of software, continuously delivering and testing new versions of the product as the requirements evolve.

The waterfall camp believes in a more structured approach, eliciting and documenting all requirements, then architecture of the software solution, then development, then testing.

Many, many projects fail due to software development leaders and project managers insisting that their teams “follow the process”. Whether that’s a Prince2 practitioner applying the methodology in a dogmatic and bureaucratic way, or a Scrum Master insisting all developers attend a sprint planning meeting. I’ve seen far too many projects not consider the wider picture and organisational eco-system, failing to understand the organisational practices and the ancillary operational and business processes that their software will become part of.

The answer is not all agile nor all waterfall. The best approach to software development is one which combines the right balance of agility and discipline to deliver what is needed by the business within the boundaries of how the business operates. The hare and the tortoise must work together in tandem to reach the goal. The best software development leaders and project managers are the ones that have exposure to both sides and can call upon their armoury of experiences, and wounds, to tailor an approach that ticks all the boxes to deliver value to the business and users.

At Momentum, we can help you to balance agility and discipline in your software development practices complemented with leaders that have a proven track record of both agile and waterfall software development. Get in touch for a confidential conversation.

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