myths of agile development
April 11, 2016 Mainframe Agility

Debunking Four Myths of Agile Development on the Mainframe

It’s 2016. You can access your bank account on a smartphone, order groceries online, be preapproved for a loan from your couch. But do you know what makes it all possible? It’s not just the app you download, or the checkout button you click.

It’s the mainframe.

The mainframe is the ultimate backend transaction-processing system that allows people to utilize technology in such a personal way. However, it can’t continue to support the proliferation of technologies of engagement unless we mainstream the mainframe by bringing it into cross-platform Agile/DevOps processes. Only then the mainframe will become more responsive to the relentlessly changing needs of the business.

Four Myths of Agile Development

Many organizations have a misconception of what Agile is and how it works. In terms of mainframe software development, Agile:

  • Breaks a year-long cycle into smaller cycles and iterations
  • Prioritizes deliverables in each cycle
  • Allows for quicker feedback of implementation
  • Between cycles, reevaluates and reprioritizes what’s coming up

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what being Agile really means. We’ve identified four myths of Agile development, and we’re happy to debunk them to keep your company from travelling down the wrong path.

Agile Myth No. 1: There’s only one way to do Agile development

Are you guilty of calling Agile a methodology or a framework? Don’t worry, most people are, but this is one of the biggest myths of agile development. more accurately Agile is a set of value attributes that guide how development should be done. Agile places:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Don’t confuse Agile with its implementation, for which various Agile methodologies exist (i.e. Scrum, Kanban, SAF, etc.). Because companies, and even groups within companies, function differently, it’s a good idea to research which frameworks meet your development needs for the different situations.

Agile Myth No. 2: Agile development means faster development

The main purpose of Agile isn’t speed, it’s creating a more efficient way to develop. Agile is perceived as faster because it revolves around developing a minimum viable product (MVP). As opposed to defining work to fill a year’s worth of effort in the development cycle, an MVP:

  • Provides a set of minimum capabilities a user would accept
  • Allows room for feedback to make product enhancements in future iterations
  • Demonstrates future benefits to retain early adopters

Agile has concepts based on lean business practices, such as making sure resources are efficient, not just faster, and eliminating waste in the development process. Where Waterfall follows a process of multi-project assignments, Agile organizes projects sequentially to minimize disruptions and bring value to the business sooner, which results in faster turnarounds.

Agile Myth No. 3: Only the IT organization is impacted

Agile doesn’t exclusively impact development. Agile is dependent on lean business practices, which means it feeds into DevOps, and DevOps exposes it for business agility. Mainstreaming the mainframe through Agile software development allows IT to align closer with the business, but ultimately it’s all about helping the business:

  • Get to market faster
  • Adapt and respond faster
  • Be more productive
  • Identify and prioritize high-impact activities faster
  • Deliver customer-centric outcomes

Agile means a business-wide cultural reformation that extends to the various departments. In an Agile culture, IT exists to serve and partner with the business, not silo itself in an arcane subculture detached from the rest of the organization. IT should be aligned with the business to provide better business value.

Agile Myth No. 4: Organizational procedures and structures don’t have to change

Agile requires more than adoption; it requires significant, often uncomfortable changes to your company’s culture, processes and tools, and it can’t succeed without the support of Executive Management.

At Compuware, we use the analogy of a three-legged stool to explain what it means to embrace change. The three legs of the stool include people, processes and tools. Anytime those things change, the stool is no longer balanced. To keep balance, we look at all three legs at once. Each leg must have the ability to adapt, be flexible, and embrace change to keep the structure balanced. Change is difficult, change is good.

Agile Is More Than a Methodology

Going Agile requires an ongoing organizational willingness to change the culture, starting at the top of the business. If your company is ready to change to an Agile culture, keep in mind:

  • Agile isn’t a software development methodology, it’s a philosophy of methodologies
  • Agile doesn’t mean faster development, it means more efficient development
  • Agile doesn’t just impact IT, it impacts the entire business
  • Agile requires changes in people, processes and tools

In today’s digital economy, business strategies, customer needs and market trends change rapidly. Mainstreaming the mainframe and becoming Agile are necessary to cope with that unpredictability and stay competitive. Don’t fall for the four myths of Agile development and assume your company can just do Agile—it must be Agile!

As you embark on your journey to become Agile, consider using Compuware as a resource and avoid falling for these four myths of agile development. Having been Agile for more than a year, we have a lot of experience under our belt and are happy to share best practices and lessons learned. Please email me at [email protected] if you would like to connect.

Photo by Liv Martin and Chad Morgan