Sunday, July 29, 2007

Agile: Why It Scares Management (Part 3)

This is the third installment in my series on Agile development. This will also be the final article on why Agile methods scare management. In previous installments, I discussed the impact of process-driven and command-and-control corporate cultures on development. This final installment will discuss funding, messaging, and sales. In short, it is about the dollars (or euros, pounds, yen, or whatever your currency is).

In order to get a project funded, there has to be a reasonable assurance that it is going to make money. Answers to questions like how many engineers should be assigned, how much effort should be spent in marketing, etc, are determined by taking the feature set and doing research to understand how much are people willing to pay for a set of features. If a development organization turns around and says, "Well, we don't really know what features will be in," to the financiers of a project, that is like saying, "Well, we don't really know how much this project will be worth." Any investor wants to feel comfortable about the investment she is making and the return it will bring.

Once the project is funded and underway, it is time for marketing to go to work because salespeople will not be able to sell a product that customers don't know anything about. Innovation is a current buzz word in the marketing world, leading to what Doug Hall would call a Meaningful Difference. The fear of marketers is that, in an Agile world, they don't know the Meaningful Difference because nothing is "set in stone." The only thing worse than having no Meaningful Difference is to talk about one and then have it not show up.

Continuing downstream from marketing are the salespeople. Studies have shown that salespeople are most effective when they are dependable and honest1. Having a moving target to sell against makes that dependability and honesty difficult to cultivate and keep. Instead, salespeople wait to sell the new product, even though it would otherwise be advantageous to do so.

In the first three articles, I've discussed the very real fears and concerns about Agile development. People who are familiar with Agile development will know that many of the fears are unfounded. In the next several articles, I will discuss how these fears are unfounded, and how, in reality, the things that are most feared can be turned into its greatest assets.

1. "Jump Start Your Marketing Brain", Doug Hall, pg 198

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