Agile Software Development in the Large: Diving Into the Deep Paperback – Jun 30 2004
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
All of that said, this is still a very approachable, readable book about general agile development. It's light enough to prove an easy introduction for folks not familiar, and it's careful not to just be a primer on Scrum or XP. But if you're looking for a book on scaling up, this isn't it.
2) The introduction provides some interesting philosphical discussion regarding how one might consider approaching Agile Development on large teams, and provides initial thoughts on how to scale up proven agile processes for large teams.
3) Chapter 2, "Agility and Largeness", discusses a number of "generalities" that must be considered when trying to work a large project with a large team, using Agile methods. The author identifies several important issues that must be addressed (e.g., communication issues in large teams that cannot be co located). In addition, this chapter contains an excellent discussion of factoring.
4) Chapter 3, "Agility and Large Teams" addresses the "people issues" associated with scaling Agile methods to large projects. gain, communication is addressed, along with team building. Suggestions are provided about how to implement "virtual teams" on a large, agile project.
5) Chapter 4, "Agility and the Process" seems to be, to an ex process engineer at least, the heart of this book. Objectives, feedback, and planning are discussed in depth, and the use of regular retrospectives is suggested (in contrast to an end-of the-project "post-mortem). Tips are given to help you get started, and the importance of a "culture of change" is identified and discussed.
6) Chapter 5, "Agility and Technology" provides some interesting thoughts on how state-of-the-art technology can be a hindrance, and how state-of-the-practice technology can assist a project, whether agile or not.
7) Chapter 6, "Agility and the Company" provides valuable insight into how corporate cultures and structures can help and hinder agile development in the large. The perspectives on planning and control, and QA are interesting, to say the least. I won't offer any hints except to say that this chapter makes VERY interesting reading, especially to a person (like myself) with an extensive QA and testing background. The only thing I didn't see addressed in this chapter, which I saw in a recent article in Better Software magazine, was the difficulty of applying a corporate reward structure to Agile Teams.
8) In Chapter 7, Ms. Eckstein wraps up the book with a report on a large project she assisted (or more than that) starting up with agile processes. This chapter also makes very interesting reading, and offers some significant lessons that Ms. Eckstein and the company she was working with learned.
A couple of minor areas I'd have liked to see addressed or modified, though maybe this is due to her viewpoint from the European software development culture. Ms. Eckstein uses the terms "testing" and "quality control" interchangeably. That's generally not true in the US, "QC" is usually a suborganization within Quality Assurance, and testing is usually a separate organization. Also, her experience seems to be that QC/testing comes in at the end of a project. That's not the way we generally do things in more mature, enlightened companies (like Lockheed Martin Transportation & Security Solutions) in the US. But in summary, the book is well-done and a good read for any project manager who'd like to do development in an agile manner, on a large project.
Buy this book, and read through it carefully if you're considering using Agile processes on a large project. It's well worth the investment. Ms. Eckstein and Dorset House have put together another excellent offering for the software community.
While there aren't any hard numbers and the like, a formula to make a silver bullet, there's plenty of sound advice starting from structures to help scale up an agile process, the challenges one will encounter while scaling, and the peopleware issues evident in large, often distributed projects as well as large companies in general, with all the associated bureaucracy and policies. The discussions about building teams around features versus components, for example, and the division into domain teams and technical service teams are useful reading for someone facing such decisions.
Also, this book does not expect you to know the slang of agile software development. It's written so that a manager familiar with software development -- but not necessarily agile software development -- has no problem understanding what the author is trying to pass on.
What's missing from this book -- something one might wish to get support for, facing a larger than usual agile project -- is the deeper coverage of techniques to facilitate things like emergent architecture across a distributed development team. The project report from a 170-member software project was not quite as detailed as I would've hoped. Detailed case studies are something I am personally very interested in reading.
In summary, while the advice in this book is relatively abstract, and you might think it doesn't have that much to offer if you are already familiar with Agile Software Development in general, I would certainly not dare to risk a large project by NOT reading this book.
As she notes early in the book, "the main reason for project failure is almost always a problem with, or lack of, communication". The difficulty of communication and thus the probability of failure can only increase with team size. Jutta describes many patterns for organizing a large project team into subteams using Agile practices, for facilitating communications between these smaller teams, and for establishing the "culture of learning" essential in adopting an Agile process and adapting it to scale for a large project.
The book contains a clear and concise summary of Agile principles and practices that is valuable even for small teams. If you're tackling a large project with an Agile process, I think this book is essential.
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