In 2001, when the Agile Manifesto was first published, technology in the workplace looked and felt very different to how it does today. High-speed Internet and data channels were still relatively new and communication channels more limited in variety. The sharing of information was nowhere near as easy as it is today. Nothing lived in the cloud and ‘drop box’ was something you did by accident, if you were clumsy.
There’s no doubt that the Agile Manifesto has been great for software teams, but it has always presented challenges for business analysts and other stakeholders involved in the broader context of application development. The problems addressed by Agile in 2001 still exist today and are, in many cases, magnified by the changing landscape of product delivery, specifically:
· More information than ever is available, maybe too much;
· Context, conversations and decisions go undocumented;
· Communication gaps widen due to geographically-dispersed teams;
· Time to market has dramatically shortened;
· Customer needs continue to go unmet.
Many of us in the software business have lived through the challenges faced by
Waterfall, Agile and hybrid teams alike, both from the technology and business sides. With great respect for the Agile Manifesto, in light of the seismic shift in technologies and the way in which we work in 2014, I believe that it is time to reconsider the Agile Manifesto, to rethink how it applies in the modern product development dynamic.
Motivations for change
So what does it mean to take a modern look at the agile manifesto? Why does it matter? In my view think there are four key reasons for change:
(1) The world has changed
The world has seen many fundamental changes since 2001, not least in terms of technology and how teams work. Working patterns and methodologies have changed. The workplace has truly become global and connected. From online cloud storage to social networks, we’re now permanently embedded through modern technology. Not only is this true for how we communicate with colleagues, it is true for how we connect with customers. As a result of the social communication revolution, hierarchies of communication have been flattened and reshaped power relationship between rulers and masses (or management and workers). The dialogue with customers is instantaneous, and the customer voice is more empowered than ever before, more able to share opinions with us and everyone else about a product or service.
If we take a snapshot of 2001, the world of technology was a very different place. For example, the Ericsson R380 had just been released in 2000, widely considered to be the world’s first ‘smartphone.’ The first camera phone was rolled out in Japan in 2000 by J-Phone, using technology that would not find its way to North America until 2004. Social media was really an unknown term. Even MySpace was not around yet and the closest we had to what we would now call social media was archaic Instant messaging applications such as ICQ.
Music technology was probably the big event of 2001. Napster had just taken the industry by surprise and the first iPod had just come out. Things would never be the same. The phrase ‘DotCom’ was still something of a buzzword, and AOL was at its peak user base. Google had 400 employees worldwide and the whole idea of a creative workplace was just beginning to emerge. Amazon turned its first profit, laying the foundation for major growth in the coming years.
Today things look very different…
Mobile phones are no longer just phones. They are wearable. They are tablets, music players, movie players, video and still cameras, navigation systems, mini computers and health monitoring devices, and much more, dependent on which of the tens of thousands of apps available you use. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram have fundamentally changed how we communicate and share media and information. Content is highly personalized and we are firmly in the age of opt-in and permission-based marketing and communications.
The ‘Internet of Things’ has replaced DotCom and almost everything is connected - refrigerators, thermostats, cars, smart TVs. And, of course, we know what happened to Google.
There are a couple of important points to note from all of this. One is the sheer number of companies that have emerged over the last few years, but the more important fact is that so many of these companies are making products which have software embedded in them as a core operational element.
(2) Software is everywhere
The second point is that, today, software is everywhere. It’s in everything we do. We as consumers interact and buy software more than ever, often without even knowing it.