One common concern from many investigating Agile for the first time is how much time it demands. The day long planning meetings, writing user-stories and acceptance criteria, the desk-time with developers, daily stand-ups and attending show-and-tells.
I would assert, however, that the same time would need to be invested in a well done Waterfall project too! A properly done Waterfall project would require time invested in each of the activities that Agile demands; the difference is the distribution of the time invested. Rather than large phases Agile is spread evenly throughout. Agile doesn’t demand more time it demands just enough, just in time.
One benefit of the more even distribution of time is an even distribution of risk. Rather than investing lots of analysis time up-front without seeing anything delivered, one gets to do just enough analysis to see the highest prioritised business value delivered to production. Equally, testing as early as possible (and as automatic as possible) exposes issues as early as possible and thus reduces a build-up of time required for corrections.
It might appear that Agile could even demand less time overall. Perhaps it’s just the regularity and repetitive structured nature of time required by Agile that makes it seem more demanding.
What do you think is better, two months at the gym or two times every week by routine? A health study conducted in 2001, indicates that frequent modest exercise is better than intense but infrequent workouts, reports Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. Dutch researcher Dr. Klaas Westerterp studied the minute-by-minute energy expenditure of 30 volunteers. The results indicated that rather than a person’s trying to “balance out phases of inactivity with bouts of extreme activity,” it is more effective to incorporate increased physical activity into the routine of everyday life.
A benefit of the demanding structured time Agile requires is the rhythm that creates. Some have proposed that the word cadence is a suitable term to describe what happens. The whole team, which includes the business, comes to know what to expect on a routine basis. Processes become consistent, the work/life balance becomes consistent and morale improves. Teams depending on or supporting the regular routine deliveries know where they stand. The customers get used to the steady flow of improvements that they have prioritised and confidence grows.
In fact my experience is that the concern over how much time Agile demands is simply as a result of the fact that any previous project branded Waterfall has not actually been run properly. Likely the business didn’t invest the time needed to provide a solid analysis. As a result development struggles to understand the requirements.
When/if the delivery finally makes it to testing that phase suffers from a lack of time too. The profile of the project reaches melting point and whatever has been produced get’s released. Think of the time now required in corrections and revisions to eventually produce what the business really needed. Possibly years if ever. Not really Waterfall, more water down the plug-hole!
So when someone raises the concern over how much time Agile demands I would question what sort of projects they’ve been working on up to now. Therefore the raising of the concerns around the time one must invest in Agile, actually presents an opportunity to look closely at what one expects as a return on that investment, regardless of the methodology – Agile, Fragile, Waterfall or Plug-hole.