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Re: Just Say No… agile is simple, or, Escape from Your Ghettos, Suits and Coders!

The Cone of Silence

Here’s some commentary to amplify and fortify some of the points in one of James’ recent posts, the thrust of which is that software vendors (and, we’d assume, projects) need to reject feature requests more often. On the topic of Agile, he adds:

Perhaps we should add this sniff test to the smell of agile – you can tell an organisation is agile when development teams can reject feature requests.

Here’s to adding “developers can say no” to the smells. I’ll toast to that later tonight during cocktail hour 😉

Now, the other oder in this smell is:

Developers know the market(s) the software is selling into.

This is one of my top 3 dead horses in Agile and Software Development. I’ve labeld the train of thought “The MBA Programmer” and “Good Enough Software Development” both of which are pretty lame, though I like the second. In fact, it’s one of the main topics Charles and I started off the podcast with two years ago.

Bozo Bits from Both Sides

Let’s put it another way: developers rightly scoff at “marketing people” giving them technical requirements that the marketing people clearly know nothing about. “We need some WIDGETS in this dashboard! Like in MyFaceSpacr! (Want to connect in LinkedIn?) That’s totally a MUST and ranked as! Can you get that in?! OK, I’m off to an IMPORTANT meeting with a ‘customer‘! See ya in 3 months! (“Marketing people” are always busier than you and excited about what they’re saying!)

Similarly, the afore mentioned marketing person would hit DELETE ready-pronto if a developer emailed them something like, “customers are demanding round-trip oriented process audit controls for PRINCESS2 compliance. we gotta have that in. <eom> p.s. I am in ur SOX drawer complyin’ with yer lerws.” (“developers” are always corny and eschew the shift key after periods.)

That is, when running a split house — developers and marketing — if one side of the house says something dumb to the other, the bozo bit gets flipped and duct-taped in place. An activated bozo bit destroys any hopes of doing Agile to the fullest. Oddly enough, it seems like the bozo bit works well in a “Waterfall” world: there’s no reason to make decisions based on bozo bit flippedness. You just do what the spec says, <eom>, kitty cat.

Know Your Frienemy

Obviously, each side in a split house needs to spend more time honing their trade/craft/passion/money-maker –software development and delivery vs. marketing and selling software — otherwise, why have a split house? That said, each side needs both a working technical and a marketing understanding of the software if they’re going to talk with each other without thinking “this [code monkey|marketroid] is an IDIOT! I don’t have to listen to them.”

In my view, much, attention in Agile-think is spent on making the afore mentioned marketroids work closer and better with the code monkeys. The need is usually great and justified. But, often equally needed is an understanding and betterment in the other direction. Otherwise, how can the developers justifiably or even know when to Get Real and say “no”?

Dog-fooding is a hedge, but most dogs won’t eat the Gravy Train that is enterprise software. And while that might be an indicator of something being perniciously enterprisey, despite how tough it is to make, who don’t like gravy?

In the end, each side has to buckle down and understand the implications of what the other side is doing. For example, the marketing folks need to know what “RSS/ATOM” and “scaling” means; the developers need to know what “compliance/audit” and “SOA” means. Otherwise, you get that weird swing-set (can’t find a link to that 4-panel cartoon! thanks everyone!) from a game of requirements telephone. Of course, the end-users end up sucking up the slack and hating both sides of the split house.

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Categories: Agile, Enterprise Software, Marketing, Programming.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks, Gregg, that's it. Who knew there was a whole mix and mash site!

  2. Is this the cartoon you were trying to find: ? It’s more than four panels, but I think it conveys the message.