Product problems compromise value delivery
Agile most marketable and viral aspect it is “value delivery”. That sounds great, but that will not solve all the problems of the software development and also it is just a one-dimensional representation of Agile.
The biggest remaining problem for Agile development are the product problems. Often delivery and small releases will address some well known problems in software development that too often will cause project failures. Small releases, working software and close customer collaboration will reduce the project level complexity, one of the major reasons for these failures.
What about product problems? Generic problems are related with accumulation of technical debt, brittle architectures and loss of intellectual control over the product knowledge. We need a solution also for that aspect.
A great response to such problems it is introduced by Agile Manifesto by demanding “technical excellence” and good design. Jeff Sutherland says that as a conclusion after 10 year of the Agile Manifesto, “technical excellence” it is a key factor of success of Agile teams.
The question is if these two principles to follow - close to the customer and technical excellence - are sufficient to cover all kinds’ of possible problems.
A tough real-life scenario is related to new products or new significant part of the product that need to be distributed, deployed to more clients. An initial one-time distribution to more clients it is rather Waterfall than Agile despite the fact that developing could use iterations and customer collaboration. There are several reasons for that: a full-new product deployment it is equivalent with a big release (also with a rare delivery) and it is hard to imagine that we will work close with all the customers.
A great Agile solution for such kind of problem suppose, an (obviously!) incremental approach. Scott W. Ambler has described such solution here (“An Exploratory “Lean Startup” Lifecycle”):
This problem and the product knowledge problem need supplementary solutions.
Solution step #1 – Inject the business
The main conclusion is that we have a supplementary dimension of Agility beyond often delivery: we need to often and continuously inject back the business into the product. The product should be kept close to the business where will be integrated.
Solution step #2 – Products with “Business DNA”
Other question: how we could know that that business “injection” will be effective, when some recurrent problems are the loss of the intellectual control over the product knowledge and the product fragility because of increasing technical debt. Let remember what will request Robert C. Martin if will be your CTO (): "We will not ship shit.", "You will always be Ready.”, "Inexpensive Adaptability."
We will always be ready with inexpensive adaptability if will be performed a creative work to model that business before include it in the product.
The deliver product or product change will need to “live” inside the customer business and will need to adapt and evolve in that environment.
In order to realize a „natural” evolution inside the target business, the software system must have „Business DNA”. Translating that in engineering measures that mean all architectural aspects must serve that business integration.
Solution step #3 – Implementing the “Business DNA”
There are some software engineering instruments that could build and protect the „Business DNA” for a software product.
- The core structure of the software should match the real business functions. A change in the business will be reflected with minimum effort and with maximum quality in these cases
- That will be the core representation of Business DNA
Separation of concerns
- Beyond any particular architectural or design patterns, a basic rule is to kept distinct concerns decoupled. A default separation should be the one between technological aspects and functional aspects
- That will protect the Business DNA from technological changes
Good design & technical excellence
- Good design will enhance any software development enterprise
Solution step #4 – Agile product = Adaptive product
The missing link in Agile Development seems to be a principle that requires an “Adaptive Product”, with good design and “business DNA”. We should always think to “Agile Products” as “Adaptive Products”.