Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Agile and Business Processes

I want to stay with the theme of Business Processes and Agile software development for a couple of entries. I’ll break it up into bite-sized chunks rather than one rambling entry. And they may come in quick succession.

Quite a lot has come out of my last entry (BPM - is it just programming the corporation? (And the SAP Irony)), comments on the entry and conversations I’ve had recently. I’m grateful to Hans for adding some more comments to the entry which I found very interesting.

Hans suggested that the way the term “agile” is used is different between the BPM/SAP type of people and the software development community. He suggests - if I understand him right - that Agile software people value the ability to change so “agile” means “can change (software) to respond to situations”; while BPM/SAP folk consider “agile” to mean “the technology works - and we can do stuff with it quickly - which free us up to think about other (more important) things.”

There is a subtle distinction here, I wouldn’t say it is two meanings of the word, I’d say it is two ways of looking at the problem. Two different aspects view, or opportunities to exploit.

The Agile software folk say: “look how quickly we can change this software, look how quickly you can get results, now think of the business opportunities that opens up.” In other words: being Agile in your software technology opens business opportunities itself.

To the BPM/SAP folk “agile software development” means: better.
So: software will be delivered sooner, with the features we actually asked for, within the budget we first thought of an maybe with less bugs. “With the hassle of software development out of the way we can use all the free time to think about other business opportunities.”

To me this is the difference in:
  • Agile software development as a better way of developing software
and
  • Agile software development as a way of creating new business opportunities
Ultimately its a question of perspective and what you want.

For me the first sees IT, and development in particular, as a cost and neglects the benefits. For some business that will be true. The ones that interest me are the ones that use technology to change the way they do business and gain advantage.