Strengths and Weaknesses of Agile
Agile style methodologies seem to have had some success in environments with common conditions:
- Software deliverables
- Small team sizes (5-9 is usual sizes surveys contend)
- Co-located deliverable’s owner or owner’s representative
- Senior developers populating the team
Beyond these four most commonly discussed Agile/Scrum project characteristics, the success rates from the last Agile community survey from Scott Ambler indicated that for 2009 the respondents said their Agile-inspired projects enjoyed a 10 point (58 vs. 48%) improved success rate over the “traditional” project management current best practices.
There also appears to be some anecdotal evidence that Agile style methodologies have a statistically significant impact on projects that are of larger size and complexity. When confronted with the aspects of building something like the Hoover Dam, the Freedom Towers in NYC, the ‘Big Dig’ in Boston’s Harbor, or again, the Millau Viaduct in France, Agile practitioners seem to be a bit less vocal about the benefits of Agile-style methodologies. For proof of these discussions, check out any of the Agile Forums and ask the following questions.
- Please explain how Agile/Scrum would be used to manage a project that had as a deliverable like the Hoover Dam?
- Please explain how Agile/Scrum would be used to manage a project such as the ISS (International Space Station)?
- Please explain how Agile/Scrum would deal with the legislative and legal requirements of documentation for a Phase III FDA clinical trial by a major pharmaceutical company?
Then sit back and let the community go to work; during the information annealing process that will take place, the range of answers and suggestions will most likely be both wide and broad. The answers will discuss having a Scrum of Scrum architecture where virtual teams are connected via their Scrum Masters that collectively form a Scrum Oversight Council (SOC). The SOC will then transfer the necessary information between Scrum teams, allowing a nine person SOC to coordinate up to 63-81 Scrum team members depending on the size of the Scrum teams.
The question that will remain open is how does Scrum deal with deliverables with an atom-based physicality? How are requirements firmed and agreed to when they form the basis for the physical reality of the deliverable (i.e., the formula for 1000 tons of quick-drying concrete that must be able to withstand underwater pressures of 2000 lbs. per square foot)? Three standups a day even with the owner in the room may not be enough to provide the documentation or requirement firmness a physical deliverable may demand.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Predictive IT Project Management
However, the strengths and weaknesses of current project management best practices can be very quickly grouped into the following categories with the necessary details being discussed:
- Well-known processes with over 400,000 practitioners trained in their use
- Significant number of successes in the physical deliverable arena
- Support of very large project team with distributed locations and languages
- Knowledge of what constitutes a successful completion (if planning done correctly)
- Arms-length relationship between project owner and project team
- Up front estimation of project’s scope, schedule, and budget
- Identified responsibility for the project’s success or failure
- Rigidity when applied to “bit-oriented” deliverables such as software projects
- Limited ability to respond to scope changes during project execution
- Overhead in definition of requirements, scope, and costs before anything happens
- Limited interaction between project owner and project team members
- Significant costs for project management activities
- Hierarchical sensitivity for political impact and influence
While readers may have their own set of additions to these lists, the strength and weaknesses of the traditional project management can and do mirror its opposite in the Agile-style philosophy. This can explain why Agile is better suited to project/product deliverables of ‘bits’ while the current or traditional project management is of ‘atoms.’