Food for Thought V12: Is Agile for Dummies?

I have said more than once that the IT industry has much to be blamed for in terms of poor project delivery.  I wrote a discussion paper on Project Risk Management where I lead off with “Why could we land a man on the moon in 1969 yet in 2013 we struggle to get a moderate sized IT project delivered successfully? – An acceptance of mediocrity?”

I recently read “Agile for Dummies” published by IBM and authored by Scott W. Ambler and Matthew Holitza, which is about mastering Agile, a project management methodology for IT projects (by the way, it’s free).  It reminded me of a conversation I had with a mate about project management that made me realise we really do not learn enough from other industries.  My mate was a very experienced project manager in the major construction industry.  Later in his career he found himself managing a large non-construction project for an organisation and he told me that they thought he was an absolute genius because he introduced two week project planning within the longer-term 12 month project plan.  Of course, this is how he had learnt the trade of project management, he never knew any other way.

The truth is that the Agile IT project management technique, whether by accident or because they went looking, is based on short, such as two week, development windows.  Where it differs from a construction project is their focus on delivering working software every two weeks whereas that focus can’t apply to building a 30-storey building!

Now all the Agile community needs to get right is some good risk assessment methodologies and the IT industry really will have learn to do things well.  They may exist, however, I have not found an IT team that was doing risk assessment well before I arrived (sorry clients!), and IBM’s paper did not fill me full of confidence.  It does recognise “project risk” throughout and they do provide tips on how to reduce it.  In fact, they mention risk management as one of the “things” to be focssed on at the right time, but include nothing about how to do it.