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5868Re: [agile-usability] Article on Design and Agile on A list Apart

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  • William Pietri
    Dec 2, 2008
      Adam Sroka wrote:
      > However, from a macro-economic viewpoint the value in software
      > development isn't always delivering working software. Despite all the
      > dire predictions about the economy, the US government is still
      > spending at unprecedented levels. Hundreds of billions of dollars go
      > into government sponsored software projects every year. Yet, more than
      > half of those will never deliver working software to an actual user.
      > So, what is the value of those projects? Why wouldn't they just become
      > Agile and deliver something useful. The reason is that the real value
      > of those projects is in their ability to infuse large sums of money
      > into a large bureaucracy to fuel it's continued existence. Even if
      > they produce nothing they still keep people in jobs and money flowing
      > through the economy. If every project had to produce value we would
      > soon find that there wasn't enough value to be had to justify all of
      > these jobs.

      I couldn't disagree more strongly. As long as governments don't just use
      the savings from Agile methods to cut spending, then a switch to
      delivering actual value would be macroeconomically positive, not negative.

      Part of your analysis seems reasonable to me: sometimes the value of a
      project to a bureaucracy is in perpetuating the bureaucracy and
      advancing the career of its leaders by seeming big and important.

      Macroeconomically, though, there's no reason to waste money. Your take
      is a common one, but among economists it's known as the "broken window


      It's true that during a recession the government shouldn't cut spending,
      as a counter-cyclical fiscal policy can lessen the length and severity
      of a recession. But the only reason to do a low-value project is if
      government is already spending all it can on higher-value projects. I
      guess that's theoretically possible, but off the top of my head I could
      name project after project that would be more beneficial to the public
      than the typical large-project development failure.

      Your analysis also neglects the human cost. If we employ a lot of people
      in jobs that are essentially valueless, then we've in effect trained an
      entire time-wasting army. So not only do we lose the resources spent on
      the individual project, but we severely impair the future productivity
      of the workers involved.

      Despite having advocated XP since 2000, I have never seen a company that
      used the efficiency gains to cut staff. Instead, they find other things
      for people to do, and better ways to spend their excess money. There's
      no reason governments couldn't do the same thing.

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