Storytelling is not unusual in technology. Both technologists and business customers tell themselves stories. We want to believe that our project will deliver on time, that customers will be delighted with our work, or that the latest release of the software will solve their problem. Business users want to believe us. Unfortunately, many of these stories are myths – a story that may or may not have a determinable basis of fact.
When I attend governance reviews, no one ever tells the audience that their project is a failure. There is always a somewhat credible story. And yet, a survey from cloud portfolio management provider Innotas discovered that 55% of businesses surveyed had experienced an IT project failure within the previous 12 months. This is true for all types of projects, and all types of methodologies.
Failure and myths can exist in DevOps, Agile and scrum environments, too. While leveraging transparency, inspection, and adaptation into our work with customers helps us have a more honest discussion with the business, we are still prone to overcommit and underachieve. Debunking some common Agile and scrum myths may help everyone move the ball forward in 2019.
Myth #1: Agile, scrum, or DevOps will save us
Agile and scrum point us to more than just a process or framework. And DevOps is not just about technology. With these enabling tools, we are changing the way people work, and in the process changing the role of the technologist from code writer to critical thinker, and from order taker to business partner.
But the reality is that no technology, process, or framework will be effective unless both technologists and business stakeholders are willing to change the way that they interact. This kind of value-based cultural change is not created by methodology.
We must be able to get out of our own boxes and work differently with each other.
Commitment, courage, and respect are not just nice words – they are a few of the key values noted in The Scrum Guide. They are outward signs of an internal change in how we work. People must put them to use to overcome obstacles and create synergy.
Technology is hard and sometimes messy. We solve complex business problems with nuances and expectations that are often unstated. We must be able to get out of our own boxes and work differently with each other. Frequent interactions and feedback help us deliver software more rapidly and keep up with market demand.
Myth #2: Plans are waterfall, not Agile
Let’s be serious. No organization should invest a significant amount of time and money into an Agile initiative without reasonable assurances that there is a credible plan in place to achieve the goals and an understanding of what will be built. Planning and risk reduction are not anti-agile, and they can come in a variety of forms.
We are not regressing to waterfall and heavyweight documentation when we demonstrate a well-thought-out plan that is credible.
To start a large initiative, a few baselines are important. Perhaps the most important of these is to have a documented agreement of what the project or system will do. In technology, we frequently get stuck on trying to do this in either requirements or user stories, both of which are too long to expect executive sponsors to read. An executive will read and provide feedback on a two-page document; they won’t take time to read requirements.
Following this, we need to establish some architectural and project-planning baselines, and then formalize this into a concise presentation that allows us to tell a compelling story that establishes our credibility for executives and other stakeholders. More important, doing this lowers the project’s risk and raises the probability of success.
We are not regressing to waterfall and heavyweight documentation when we demonstrate a well-thought-out plan that is credible. We are showing executives and sponsors that we care about their investment and have a reasonable plan for success.
Myth #3: It’s not about me
Agile and scrum are pointing us towards the workforce of the future.
It is about you – and your career. Agile and scrum are pointing us towards the workforce of the future. At Genesis10, one of our lines of business involves placing people in companies to do technology work. When we look at what companies are asking for, more than 60% of the requirements involve soft skills. Companies are increasingly realizing they don’t need just technologists. They need creative thinkers who can analyze the problems they will deal with in the future, work in self-directed teams, and engage the business daily to drive competitive advantage.
For the technologist, the difference between career success and failure is within your control – if you are willing to change. While I was in my CIO role, I found that people who were technically trained were relatively easy to find. People who could lead within technology teams and engage the business were much harder to find and were in high demand. I believe that these skills can be learned.
Too many bright, talented, and creative technologists are telling themselves, "I can’t do that.” Yes, you can – but you must try! Taking small steps to change how you look at and approach work is a start. Breaking down how to interact with the business, how to build an executive presentation, or how to start projects off on the right foot is not rocket science and there are patterns for success that can be leveraged. We just need the courage to take some small steps.
Leaving the myths behind
For 2019, let’s resolve to leave the myths behind. Projects can deliver on time and meet expectations. Yes, it is hard work and requires that we interact with the business differently, and the problems are still there. We can do better as an industry and should not be satisfied with projects failing to deliver and meet expectations.
As for your career in technology, the sky is the limit, but we all need to grow our skills in leadership, influence, and the ability to interact with customers. This is hard, but we can all take small steps forward. Leadership begins with leading yourself and changing the way you think about yourself, your career, and your work. Along the way, we may debunk a few myths – but that will be a good thing for everyone.
3 DevOps, Agile and Scrum Myths, Debunked was first posted at The Enterprisers Project.
Also see Matt's blog at Genesis10, DevOps--Why Should I Care?
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