Jan 12

Agile, Scrum, Lean, Iterative Development Can Be Dirty Words for Startups

We've noticed how software companies, and software   developers   courting   hi-tech startups, are using phrases like Agile, Running Lean, Lean Startup, Scrum, Iterative, etc., quite liberally in their marketing material. These are very serious solutions to very big problems in our industry, so I just hope they're being used with integrity. Implementing these disciplines, or remedies, depending when they're implemented, will, if done by experienced practitioners, dramatically reduce the risk of failure.

As a 20+ year veteran developer, I know there is absolutely no better way than Agile Project Management (APM) to develop the best software possible. The same goes for Lean Startup for new initiatives. I also know that they are not easy to implement and it’s hard to get everyone on-board. So entrepreneurs beware.

After failing to convince numerous companies that APM is the way to go, KENOVA was born. Formed on the basis that it's an APM company that builds software technology and not a technology company that decided to use APM, the company has had zero failed projects. That shows you how good APM is. Not only that, the projects have always exceeded expectation…now I've gone and done it. But the point is, APM is a well proven model that out performs any waterfall based model any day. That's it, the gauntlet has been thrown for you PMIs and PMPs around the world…go ahead, bring it on.
But seriously, if you are considering a developer who claims to use an APM methodology: 1) make sure they can prove it, and 2) speak to three of their customers. My experience is, if the customers are not ecstatic about the process, there's a good chance the developer is not truly implementing APM.

I fell into APM completely by accident in the early 2000's. It's an interesting story actually…to me anyway. You see, after years of failed experiments / projects using waterfall based project management, I had come to the conclusion that as a project leader it's impossible to develop software without the project being late, over budget, low quality and, worst of all, didn't meet customer's expectations. 
This made me decide to leave the industry, feeling I'd done everything I could. This was huge for me because I love the hi-tech industry. I'm an engineer by trade and if I'm not building huge metal things then building software applications is the next best thing. (I always referred to software development as academic engineering.)

Anyway, there I was, walking up and down the bookshelves of a now defunct book store looking for "How to analyze your transferable skills for your next career" when I noticed a book titled something like "How to Use Lean Manufacturing Techniques In Software Development". I remember doing one of those moves where your head stays in place looking at the book while your legs keep walking until you almost fall on ya'bum. So, being a guy who has super dooper ADD, I completely forgot about my caree changing objective and grabbed this curious book. It turns out it was an early version of the Agile Project Management movement and when I read the intro. the heavens seemed to open up and shine a beam of light on me while a voice said "Don't leave the industry James, don't leave." Well actually it was "Can you please leave, the store is closing."

Needless to say, I immediately recognized this book was on to something and I devoured it and everything and anything APM. After practicing it for a number of projects / years I was even published by the Cuter Consortium and developed Syncromatic(R), the tool at the heart of KENOVA’s operations?

For those of you who consider yourself experienced APM practitioners, you should be saying to yourself "Hey, what happened to 'Individuals and interactions over processes and tools'?" If you're not asking that question, you may need to do some more reading on APM.


"This article may not be reproduced in whole or part without including the name of the author (James Naylor) and an acknowledgement of the fact the article was originally published in Shoestring Advice for Technology Startups (http://www.KENOVATech.com/blog). Any other use of this material is unauthorized and is a violation of law."

One Comment

  1. James Naylor says:

    Thank you…this slowdown was caused by websites changes. This has been corrected.

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