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

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  • mark schraad
    Nice article... great response. Managers often forget that efficiency and effectiveness are not mutually exclusive. Optimizing one nearly always compromised
    Message 1 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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      Nice article... great response.

      Managers often forget that efficiency and effectiveness are not mutually exclusive. Optimizing one nearly always compromised the other. 

      A tough economy is no reason to rush through the product development process, regardless of the model used.

      Mark



      On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 1:00 PM, Hassan Schroeder <hassan.schroeder@...> wrote:

      On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 9:29 AM, James Page <jamespage@...> wrote:
      > Would be interesting here peoples views on the article.
      > http://www.alistapart.com/articles/gettingrealaboutagiledesign

      ..along with David Malouf's, um, energetic, response:
      <http://alistapart.com/comments/gettingrealaboutagiledesign/>

      --
      Hassan Schroeder ------------------------ hassan.schroeder@...


    • Adam Sroka
      Fundamentally, Agile is about delivering business value. The inherent assumption is that the most important thing a software team can do is deliver working
      Message 2 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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        Fundamentally, Agile is about delivering business value. The inherent
        assumption is that the most important thing a software team can do is
        deliver working software. Those of us who believe this have taken up
        with the Agile movement and not looked back.

        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.

        So, when will Agile arrive? I believe that it already has. So why
        aren't we all doing it? Because the economy overvalues software
        development. Eventually there will come a day when the market will
        value software development services according to the value that they
        produce. Once that is true we will have to produce something valuable
        or find a new line of work. When will this happen? I don't know, but
        it happens in every new market and our day will come.

        On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 9:29 AM, James Page <jamespage@...> wrote:
        > Would be interesting here peoples views on the article.
        > http://www.alistapart.com/articles/gettingrealaboutagiledesign
        >
        > James
        >
      • William Pietri
        ... 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
        Message 3 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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          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
          fallacy":

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_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.

          William
        • Adam Sroka
          ... I think you misunderstood my intentions. I was attempting to describe the current situation and why I think Agile has not been more widely adopted. I was
          Message 4 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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            On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 12:54 PM, William Pietri <william@...> wrote:
            > 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
            > fallacy":
            >
            > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_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.
            >
            > William
            >

            I think you misunderstood my intentions. I was attempting to describe
            the current situation and why I think Agile has not been more widely
            adopted. I was also trying to discount the premise of TFA that current
            economic conditions compel us to be more Agile. I was not arguing that
            the current situation was reasonable or valid.

            It is possible that government projects could adopt Agile and produce
            more value. It is also possible that government projects that don't
            produce value could cease and that those people could find productive
            jobs elsewhere. I was merely making the case that there is currently
            no economic force compelling them to do either. (I also made the point
            that software development is overvalued and that when its valuation
            becomes more realistic other factors may be more compelling.)

            BTW, there are a lot of government projects that do produce value and
            many that have adopted Agile. However, these are not the majority by
            any stretch. Also, the same situation can and does exist outside of
            the government. I think that government tends to be a refuge for these
            projects, however, because their oversight is not motivated by
            profitability.
          • Ron Jeffries
            Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 3:37:25 PM, you ... Huh? Value isn t a finite quantity that projects draw down. Projects [can] /create/ value.
            Message 5 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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              Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 3:37:25 PM, you
              wrote:

              > 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.

              Huh? Value isn't a finite quantity that projects draw down. Projects
              [can] /create/ value.

              Any project whose sole value is that it is causing people to be paid
              would be of more value if it also built something useful.

              Ron Jeffries
              www.XProgramming.com
              www.xprogramming.com/blog
              The fact that we know more today, and are more capable today,
              is good news about today, not bad news about yesterday.
            • Adam Sroka
              On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 1:35 PM, Ron Jeffries ... Yes, but what compels them to do so? ... Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
              Message 6 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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                On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 1:35 PM, Ron Jeffries
                <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                > Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 3:37:25 PM, you
                > wrote:
                >
                >> 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.
                >
                > Huh? Value isn't a finite quantity that projects draw down. Projects
                > [can] /create/ value.
                >

                Yes, but what compels them to do so?

                > Any project whose sole value is that it is causing people to be paid
                > would be of more value if it also built something useful.
                >

                Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
                their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/? And, what
                if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
                value in the form of working software?
              • Adam Sroka
                P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more budget for software
                Message 7 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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                  P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that
                  is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more
                  budget for software than it has need?

                  On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Adam Sroka <adam.sroka@...> wrote:
                  > On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 1:35 PM, Ron Jeffries
                  > <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                  >> Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 3:37:25 PM, you
                  >> wrote:
                  >>
                  >>> 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.
                  >>
                  >> Huh? Value isn't a finite quantity that projects draw down. Projects
                  >> [can] /create/ value.
                  >>
                  >
                  > Yes, but what compels them to do so?
                  >
                  >> Any project whose sole value is that it is causing people to be paid
                  >> would be of more value if it also built something useful.
                  >>
                  >
                  > Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
                  > their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/? And, what
                  > if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
                  > value in the form of working software?
                  >
                • tmfspeck
                  ... Then your business needs to learn to better budget ;)
                  Message 8 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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                    --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Adam Sroka" <adam.sroka@...>
                    wrote:
                    >
                    > P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that
                    > is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more
                    > budget for software than it has need?
                    >

                    Then your business needs to learn to better budget ;)
                  • Ron Jeffries
                    Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:57:10 PM, you ... Never seen it happen but if that were true you could spend less or contract to do software
                    Message 9 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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                      Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:57:10 PM, you
                      wrote:

                      > P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that
                      > is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more
                      > budget for software than it has need?

                      Never seen it happen but if that were true you could spend less or
                      contract to do software for someone else.

                      Ron Jeffries
                      www.XProgramming.com
                      www.xprogramming.com/blog
                      Accroche toi a ton reve. --ELO
                    • Adam Sroka
                      On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 2:36 PM, Ron Jeffries ... Where I have seen it, in the context of government, it looks like this: The process of Undulation is very
                      Message 10 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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                        On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 2:36 PM, Ron Jeffries
                        <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                        > Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:57:10 PM, you
                        > wrote:
                        >
                        >> P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that
                        >> is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more
                        >> budget for software than it has need?
                        >
                        > Never seen it happen but if that were true you could spend less or
                        > contract to do software for someone else.
                        >

                        Where I have seen it, in the context of government, it looks like
                        this: The process of Undulation is very expensive. It costs the
                        taxpayer millions of dollars every quarter. We would like to develop
                        the Super-new Obfuscated Undulator (SOU) so that we can increase the
                        speed and reduce the amount of error in typical Undulations thus
                        reducing costs. Congress has allotted umpteen million to this project
                        and we have contracted Gratuitous Spending Corporation (GSC) to come
                        up with a design. GSC has told us that they will spend the next two
                        years designing the project after which we will return to Congress to
                        ask for more money.

                        A couple of things about this hypothetical project:

                        1) The agency is quite capable of continuing to do "Undulation" the
                        way they have always done it. It is expensive, but they have the money
                        and will continue to get the money as long as they ask for it.

                        2) The project is justified by the perception that it could reduce the
                        cost of existing processes. Lower costs are good. Thus, it fills a
                        real need and it is easy to justify the additional expense in terms of
                        future value.

                        3) The process is a black box. GSC walks away with the money and has
                        very little to account for in terms of what happens to it. At most,
                        they need to have a plan outlining how the money will be spent and
                        they need to deliver some documents showing that someone spent some
                        time thinking about a solution.

                        4) The agency's continued funding depends on it's continued spending.
                        It too is not very accountable for what happens to the money so long
                        as it can outline a plan and deliver some documents saying what
                        happened.

                        5) All that anyone really cares is that the "Undulation" gets done
                        regardless of how it gets done or how much money is wasted in the
                        process. Thus, there is no force /compelling/ success. Regardless of
                        the success or failure of the software project business will continue
                        as usual. In fact, in the long run occasional failures produce greater
                        revenues for the agency. So long as "Undulation" continues this is
                        good for business.

                        I won't get into specifics, but this is something I have seen first
                        hand at more than one government office. It is also part of the reason
                        that I used to live in DC and now live in Los Angeles :-)
                      • Ron Jeffries
                        Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:53:02 PM, you ... Of course. All projects create less value than is possible. Many create sufficient value.
                        Message 11 of 16 , Dec 3, 2008
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                          Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:53:02 PM, you
                          wrote:

                          > Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
                          > their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/?

                          Of course. All projects create less value than is possible. Many
                          create sufficient value.

                          > And, what
                          > if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
                          > value in the form of working software?

                          Then it wouldn't make much sense to have a software project would
                          it?

                          Ron Jeffries
                          www.XProgramming.com
                          www.xprogramming.com/blog
                          The practices are not the knowing: they are a path to the knowing.
                        • Adam Sroka
                          On Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 8:25 PM, Ron Jeffries ... Except that it is the Emperor s New Clothing. They have to believe we re selling something or we don t get
                          Message 12 of 16 , Dec 3, 2008
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                            On Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 8:25 PM, Ron Jeffries
                            <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                            > Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:53:02 PM, you
                            > wrote:
                            >
                            >> Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
                            >> their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/?
                            >
                            > Of course. All projects create less value than is possible. Many
                            > create sufficient value.
                            >
                            >> And, what
                            >> if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
                            >> value in the form of working software?
                            >
                            > Then it wouldn't make much sense to have a software project would
                            > it?
                            >

                            Except that it is the Emperor's New Clothing. They have to believe
                            we're selling something or we don't get paid. Software is the perfect
                            thing to be selling, because no one is quite sure what it is (The
                            magical stuff that the internet is made from.) And, everyone already
                            expects us to fail (After all it's /really hard/.)

                            I'm being cynical, and you don't have to join me. On the other hand,
                            cynics are people who have seen how screwed up the world can be.
                          • Ron Jeffries
                            Hello, Adam. On Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 12:02:31 AM, you ... Well, to operate that way, wouldn t one have to be living a lie? ... Everyone with their
                            Message 13 of 16 , Dec 4, 2008
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                              Hello, Adam. On Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 12:02:31 AM, you
                              wrote:

                              > Except that it is the Emperor's New Clothing. They have to believe
                              > we're selling something or we don't get paid. Software is the perfect
                              > thing to be selling, because no one is quite sure what it is (The
                              > magical stuff that the internet is made from.) And, everyone already
                              > expects us to fail (After all it's /really hard/.)

                              Well, to operate that way, wouldn't one have to be living a lie?

                              > I'm being cynical, and you don't have to join me. On the other hand,
                              > cynics are people who have seen how screwed up the world can be.

                              Everyone with their eyes open sees how screwed up the world can be.
                              The question is what do you do next.

                              Ron Jeffries
                              www.XProgramming.com
                              www.xprogramming.com/blog
                              Find the simple path to what works and follow it,
                              always looking for a simpler path. -- Patrick D. Smith
                            • Adam Sroka
                              On Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 6:15 AM, Ron Jeffries ... More or less. It is a mob mentality. The more people you have working on something the less stake they have
                              Message 14 of 16 , Dec 4, 2008
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                                On Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 6:15 AM, Ron Jeffries
                                <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                                > Hello, Adam. On Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 12:02:31 AM, you
                                > wrote:
                                >
                                >> Except that it is the Emperor's New Clothing. They have to believe
                                >> we're selling something or we don't get paid. Software is the perfect
                                >> thing to be selling, because no one is quite sure what it is (The
                                >> magical stuff that the internet is made from.) And, everyone already
                                >> expects us to fail (After all it's /really hard/.)
                                >
                                > Well, to operate that way, wouldn't one have to be living a lie?
                                >

                                More or less.

                                It is a mob mentality. The more people you have working on something
                                the less stake they have individually. Add deep hierarchies and long,
                                slow feedback loops and you have an environment where no one has any
                                personal responsibility.

                                I think a lot of software people just want to build things. If the
                                "architect" comes and says, "I need a component that takes these
                                inputs and produces these outputs, and I need it in six weeks," they
                                are content to do that with little stake in how that relates to the
                                business and the success of the overall project.

                                I think the blame for mismanagement generally lies with such
                                "architects" and whoever is pulling their strings. Sometimes it is
                                malicious. Sometimes it is incompetence. Sometimes you have True
                                Believers who are sure that what they are doing is the Right Way to
                                develop software even though they've never personally seen it succeed.

                                >> I'm being cynical, and you don't have to join me. On the other hand,
                                >> cynics are people who have seen how screwed up the world can be.
                                >
                                > Everyone with their eyes open sees how screwed up the world can be.
                                > The question is what do you do next.
                                >

                                Personally, I make as much noise as I can and then try to get the next
                                gig lined up. At some point I'd like to settle down and take some
                                responsibility, but that hasn't been in the cards yet.
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