I have been involved in a series of posts on both my SRMM Blog (see post) and the PMI Voices on Project Management blog (see post) that have stirred up sections of the agile software development community.
Despite the Agile Manifesto focusing on providing excellence to stakeholders, many Agilists seem intent on advocating their rather extreme view of agile including no documentation, little planning or architectural design and less control. The mantra is ‘give the software developers free reign and you will get better software’. Whilst this may be true (although I somehow doubt it in anything but the smallest and simplest projects) it ignores the needs of the project’s key stakeholders.
Most IT projects exist to enhance the capability of the organisation. Consequently the software development is only one part of an overall project to change the organisation, deliver new capabilities or similar. In these typical circumstances, the IT component needs to meet predetermined requirements; any change in the IT capability delivered requires changes in other parts of the project. In fact the best IT solution may turn out to be an unacceptable business solution.
Meeting the needs of the businesses key stakeholders demands discipline and communication not just within the ‘scrum’ or XP team but to the customer’s managers. This needs at the very least a minimum of documentation to prove the IT team and its immediate customers understand their scope of work and other constraints and know how they will achieve the outcomes needed to support the business. Adequate documentation and effective communication are essential.
This post is not suggesting a return to Waterfall or other heavily documented software development process (they don’t work very well anyway – refer the Standish reports) but rather for an appropriate level of documentation to meet the genuine needs of senior management stakeholders. Saying ‘trust me’ is not enough and is not good stakeholder management.
Identifying the key stakeholders, assessing their requirements and expectations and then managing these key relationships so the stakeholders realistic expectations can be realised definitely involves up-front planning and effort, needs tools and methodologies such as the Stakeholder Circle® and involves on-going monitoring and control but is, I would suggest, worth the effort. Your project is unlikely to be seen as successful if the stakeholders expectations are not realised!
In most aspects of life the long term enjoyment of real freedom required a significant measure of self discipline. The agile extremists may do well to consider this and focus on meeting the needs and expectations of all of the stakeholders involved in their work.