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Old, new and future Software Project Management methods

Let me introduce some drawings I made 😋

The future of Agile

This is about putting in perspective well-known Software Project Management methods, but also about thinking what would be the “future of Agile”.

Please note that this view is neither complete nor exhaustive. Yet I think it draws an interesting picture.

Here it goes:

What’s IID?

Iterative & Incremental Development covers methods with iterations at their core. This includes XP, Scrum, but also RUP, Evo…

What’s organization-wide Kanban?

I made the name up. It’s the idea that the whole company is driven Kanban-style. Individual teams may be free to work as they want — Scrum, Kanban… — but the way the global company works is not relying on planning and commitments. It is the opposite of the Feature Factory.

John Cutler wrote many articles about it, even though he does not use this name.

Is it an actual thing? Well, Spotify is such a company.

Let’s take a Manichean point of view

Why have I put these on an axis?

Does that mean that some are better than others?

Well, yes and no. While single iteration Waterfall is clearly a bad idea, then on the other items it also depends on your environment, what customers are you chasing after, what your business model is.

Project vs. Product

Waterfall, IID and project-oriented Scrum are all about running projects: it fits well the software workshop-style company, building something as per requested by the customer:

  • The customer is clearly identified
  • We can ask questions to this customer
  • By the way, the customer knows he needs something

A method like XP is a perfect fit for such a project: just put in a common room the customer or a customer representative plus the team in charge of the project and let them roll, iteration after iteration. You’ll end up with an happy customer, with a product that fills her needs, in time and under budget.

Yet product-oriented Scrum and what I called organization-wide Kanban are clearly on the product mindset side. It is more about finding your market and grabbing market share, than filling the need of a customer giving you money to build it.

From this point of view, the axis is no more a Manichean point of view: the best fit depends on your context.

Let’s have a look at the mindset of each method

This chart reads easily from left to right. We see that things are getting more and more focused on outcomes, business and having people responsible and autonomous.

Who’s the customer? How do we handle customership?

What’s the team’s natural behavior given each context?

This chart also reads nicely from left to right.

  • From experts building software… // Code
  • … To developers growing software… // Code + Test
  • … Then continually experimenting not only with code, but also with processes… // Code + Test + Process
  • … Then continually experimenting not only with code and processes, but also with product… // Code + Test + Process + Product
  • … And finally entrepreneurs inside the company // Code + Test + Process + Product + Business

Sounds like superheroes…

Not superheroes : superteams made up of a selection of highly-skilled, complementary people, driven by a common goal and vision in a highly supportive, lowly bureaucratic organization. Not to mention psychological safety, self-organization and autonomy.

What’s your point?

The usual “it depends” stuff

First, there is no good or bad method, only methods more or less appropriate to given contexts.

SaaS is eating the world

Yet today’s and tomorrow’s worlds are more and more dominated by SaaS solutions, where the product way does wonder.

If we focus on this business model only, then the company’s maturity can be assessed by looking how far on the right the company is.

You’d be amazed to know how many companies haven’t passed the IID or project-oriented Scrum.

What do you think?

Does it make sense?

Does it ring any bells?

I’d like to hear from you!

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