The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development

Michael Hugos, Principal, Center for Systems Innovation | 11/25/2013 | 32 comments

Michael Hugos
Agile development is how I get things done. It's been central to my success as a CIO and an entrepreneur. How else can I keep up with the relentless pace of events? How else am I going to deliver applications in a timely manner? But because agile development has fewer hard and fast rules and fewer regulations, it also requires higher levels of skill and collaboration from me and from people on agile development teams.

Many IT groups make the mistake of thinking that, because there are fewer regulations, agile development is somehow easier or less disciplined than traditional waterfall approaches. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Agile is harder than waterfall -- much harder. But when people learn to do agile well, they make it look easy. And things get done faster.

A good analogy is to think of musicians playing in a jazz band versus musicians playing in a marching band. There is a clear and predictable structure and tempo to music played by a marching band. As long as players hit the right notes at the right time and stay in step, the music works. Jazz has a structure and tempo, too, but it calls for much more collaboration between the musicians than just hitting the right notes at the right time.

As a CIO, I've been successful with agile development because I insist that every agile development team be composed of people who are skilled in one or more of what I call the core techniques. There are seven core techniques:

  • Brainstorming and facilitation
  • Process mapping
  • Data modeling
  • System prototyping
  • Object-oriented design and programming
  • DevOps
  • Agile project management

They are needed on every agile project, regardless of the technology being used or the application being developed.

Certainly people on project teams need to be skilled in the specific programming languages, operating systems, databases, and hardware that will be used, but because technology changes faster and faster, it is not good enough just to know how to use a particular technology.

It is critical for people to be competent in the use of techniques that transcend any particular technology. Agile teams need to deliver value quickly, regardless of technology being used or the application being developed. IT agility happens when people use creative combinations of the core techniques to define, design, and deliver applications in short iterations that build on one another.

The first technique, brainstorming, is essential for pooling insights and ideas from business and technical people to define possible solutions. When people are skilled at techniques such as process mapping, they can explore and redesign any business process. When they are good at data modeling, they can clearly define and organize the relevant data. And when they are skilled at system prototyping, they can design different user interfaces and technical architectures that work well for the applications being built.

When developers make good use of object-oriented design and programming, they create stable and maintainable software. DevOps enables timely rollout of software into production. And agile project management enables people to coordinate their activities and address issues as they arise. That's what it takes to make agile development successful.

In coming posts, I'll explore these seven core techniques in more depth. And I'll expand on the analogy of marching bands and jazz bands to illustrate differences between traditional and agile development.

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Susan Nunziata   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/30/2013 2:57:37 AM
Re: 'Agile' is the word
@singlemud: indeed, agile is necessary for small organizations. The larger an organization grows, the less agile it seems to become. Why do you think this is the case?
Susan Nunziata   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/30/2013 2:55:59 AM
Re: Re : The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development
@Michael: I completely agree that this approach is extremely beneficial to any organization. My sturggle is with how you find the people who have the right skills in the areas you outline--in addition to the requisite technical skills.

Do you have questions you ask in hiring that help you to ascertain how well individuals will perform in, for example, a brainstorming session?
shehan   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/29/2013 10:08:37 PM
Re: More Than Development
"Brainstorming and facilitation" is an important aspect to get ideas from the team you work with. Collective ideas will always add more value than individual thinking.

 
shehan   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/29/2013 10:04:02 PM
Re: More Than Development
@shakeeb very important point. by involving customer from the development stage has  great advantage in making a complete product.
shakeeb   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/29/2013 9:01:53 PM
Re: More Than Development
Furthermore this has a greater customer satisfaction since the customer active involvement is always taken in to consideration throughout the development life cycle.
shakeeb   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/29/2013 9:01:22 PM
Re: More Than Development
There are many advantages by using agile development techniques. The main aspect is the quality, where the testing is integrated thought the development. Having these regular testing will help the developers to come with quality developments.
Michael Hugos   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/28/2013 10:12:36 AM
Re: Re : The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development
Hi Anand - Thank you. Flexibility and ability to think clearly as things keep happening that we did not expect; these will be qualities we need to find our way though this real-time world we live in now. I'll go into a bit more about each of the seven core techniques for agility in future articles. 

 
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Anand   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/28/2013 4:31:14 AM
Re : The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development
@ Michael Hugos, this indeed is the true philosophy of Agile. It is more of a customized kind of approach tailored to fit your unique requirements. It should have the necessary flexibility to mould it the way you need to according to your actual experience when you put it to execution. This is exactly we need in today's dynamic world.
Anand   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/28/2013 4:31:10 AM
Re : The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development
@ CurtisFranklin, you are right it cannot be confined to development; it is a complete business philosophy. It is a specific way of doing things in a cumulative manner. Many a business today is turning to Agile with differing results depending upon the approach they take. I think confining it only to dev teams would hinder the output it can actually give.
Salik   The 7 Core Techniques of Agile Development   11/28/2013 1:23:17 AM
Re: 'Agile' is the word
@singlemud - Small companies can change their development framework because of a small framework. Like you said, it's the willingness of the big boys to adapt to change that matters.
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