On Agile And Backend Integration Projects

Another consultant recently told me that she doesn’t believe Agile works for backend-type projects. She said that Agile just introduces too much change and she can’t keep up with the process. She also mentioned that there were studies emerging that said as much, but when pressed, she couldn’t find any.

Now, I’m all for Agile taking criticism. It’s about People over Process, so if there’s some process hurting people in that equation, then it needs to be examined and possibly fixed. I also believe that building working code iteratively is vastly better than talking about it for months and then sitting down to write code.

Our client, like all clients, likes to change their mind about what features they want in the application we are building. This other consultant and I are on two different teams within the project and she’s doing legacy integration work and we’re doing essentially greenfield development that will have to hook into her systems. As our client changes their mind, it’s pretty easy for us to keep up while she struggles to make changes to database models, ETL processes, and other bits of code in her work.

Thinking about what’s going on, I think I’ve come to the reason why it’s hard for her to change and easy for us. We’re using tools and processes that allow us to change rapidly. Her tools are hindering her from making rapid and iterative change and her processes might be too rigid.

Notice that I’m not telling what tools each of us is using. I don’t want to get into a debate about what tool is better, only the type of tool that allows people to be empowered to change at a moment’s notice and then change their minds back again. My hypothesis is that her tools are hindering her from keeping up with our clients. She’s certainly capable of doing the work, but I feel like processes that her tools make her go through are getting in her way.

What advice can I give to someone in that position? I’ve mentioned stronger scope control to her, greater communication between our teams, and getting another analyst to help with the workload of deciphering the legacy systems she has to integrate with. These are all people processes because I’ve seen other consultants use the same tools in my Agile projects and fit in with the process relatively comfortably.

Agile may not work for all types of projects, but I believe it can work here. It may just be that we need better tools.

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