Interview with Scott Ambler
Scott W. Ambler is the Senior Consulting Partner of Scott Ambler + Associates, working with organizations around the world to help them to improve their software processes. He provides training, coaching, and mentoring in disciplined Agile and Lean strategies at both the project and organizational level. Scott is the founder of the Agile Modeling (AM), Agile Data (AD), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), and Enterprise Unified Process (EUP) methodologies. He is the (co)author of several books, including Disciplined Agile Delivery, Refactoring Databases, Agile Modeling, Agile Database Techniques, The Object Primer (3rd ed.), and The Enterprise Unified Process. Scott is a senior contributing editor with Dr. Dobb’s Journal, and he blogs about DAD at http://DisciplinedAgileDelivery.com. Scott is also a Founding Member of the Disciplined Agile Consortium (DAC), the certification body for disciplined Agile. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and his web site is http://scottwambler.wordpress.com.
Kristin and Sondra: How do you know when a company is culturally ready to adopt Agile?
Scott: My initial thought was “you just know,” but clearly that’s not the answer you’re looking for. People, at all levels of IT and at least in key positions within the business, need to recognize that they need to deliver IT solutions more effectively. They need to recognize that the old, documentation-heavy ways simply aren’t working, and in many cases they need to stop lying to themselves about this. They need to recognize that greater collaboration, greater flexibility, and the need to embrace some kinds of uncertainty are the order of the day.
Kristin and Sondra: What are the most significant differences between Agile and Waterfall, from a cultural perspective?
Scott: Agile focuses on collaborative, iterative, high-value activities that focus on producing solutions that meet the needs of stakeholders. The challenge is that Agile teams need to be skilled and disciplined enough to pull this off, while the stakeholders need to be actively involved with the Agile teams. Waterfall teams often take documentation-heavy approaches in the name of risk reduction. The challenge is that Waterfall strategies prove to be higher risk in practice, but because they involve so many perceived “checks and balances,” the people involved are unable to recognize the very clear risks they are taking on.
Kristin and Sondra: How important are things like the seating arrangements for a successful Agile adoption?
Scott: Communication and collaboration are key success factors on Agile projects, so how people are physically organized is important. I’ve explored this issue in several surveys [see http://Ambysoft.com/surveys/], and it’s clear that the closer people are to one another, including to stakeholders, the higher the success rates of project teams. Even something as simple as putting people in cubes can lower the success rate.
Kristin and Sondra: How do successful teams integrate virtual (and perhaps global) team members?
Scott: The best strategy is to not take on these sorts of risks at all. If you choose to, do so with your eyes wide open. Try to have distributed subteams, not dispersed individuals. Fly key people around between sites. Fly key people together at critical times in the project, particularly at the beginning when you’re making fundamental strategy decisions. Adopt communication technologies, in particular video conferencing. And finally, adopt distributed development tools, such as IBM Jazz or Microsoft TFS.