Agile techniques can vary when comparing theory to practice however they generally share common characteristics. These characteristics can often include; iterative development, focus on interaction, focus on communication, and the reduction of resource intensive intermediate artifacts.
“Agile development is the ability to “Deliver quickly, Change quickly, and Change often.” (Highsmith et al., 2000)
As Agile software development continues to thrive and become more popular in the industry, more organisations can be seen adopting the methods than ever before. There are however some businesses who remain hesitant at the thought of implementing Agile development, especially in cases where teams are located offshore.
The cause of these hesitations can be due to various factors including different time zones, language barriers, and even cultural differences. These are areas which make Agile Development appear more difficult, however the right model and the right approach could pro-actively manage difficulties and ensure the team has every chance of being successful.
Myth #1 – Time/Distance Kills Communication
The whole point of Agile development is to increase the rate at which the software is developed whilst remaining flexible throughout the process.
In order to achieve this, Agile software development skips the bureaucracy and encourages constant, face-to-face communication. Through these direct meetings all parties are able to get involved in the process. More importantly developers and clients are provided the opportunity to openly converse and discuss the project.
Myth #1 Busted
Organisations can utilise communication tools, such as HD video conferencing, as a means to counteract problems faced with distant communication. Combine this with other online file sharing programs and suddenly communication is no longer an issue.
Choosing nearshore teams closer to home (preferably within 2-3 hour time difference) can have benefits especially when comparing with other offshore options much further away, where the difference could be 12+ hours. Time zones can have a negative impact on communication especially those further away. Some nearshore developers actually align their working day with UK hours which means often differences in working times are very minor, if at all.
Myth #2 – Cultural Differences Hinder Progress
Western countries have cultural and societal differences in the workplace, Western employees are encouraged to share thoughts and voice opinions among colleagues regardless of whether everyone agrees. This way of working is slightly different in Eastern European countries where it is not common to share feedback and openly criticise what a colleague says.
The problem arises when UK based employees attempt to discuss and share opinions with overseas developers within the Agile process.
Myth #2 Busted
When combatting this myth attention should be paid to both parties in the development relationship.
If an organisation encourages participation in discussion, prompts development teams for their feedback and raise awareness to the importance of feedback. An agile environment is created. An overseas development company may also choose to introduce English teachers into the organisation to develop language skills and increase cultural awareness.
As nearshore developers interact with UK based business and develop a ‘track record’ of multiple projects, they naturally grow, evolve and become more capable of working in a ‘western way’. A company with a track record of working with UK organisations and multiple interactions are generally more ‘evolved’ and naturally more capable of working in the ‘western way’.
Organisations may find it beneficial to seek out overseas development companies who have already built up a wealth of experience in UK market, especially those who have a UK based intermediary. These developers are more likely to be culturally aware of differences and have already adapted their methods to suit.
Myth #3 – Reduction in Trust between Teams
Naturally developing trust and relationship building is more difficult for teams who have never met, however trust is an essential part of Agile development. If trust is not present this can negatively impact the development process.
The offshore team may begin to feel disengaged and as though they are completing a check list. On the flip side those in the UK can begin to feel frustrated and may doubt the performance of the team in meeting specified requirements.
Without trust the process becomes counterintuitive and the Agile environment gradually becomes diminished.
Myth #3 busted
When organisations work with offshore teams, investing a little time in bringing them closer together is mutually beneficial for both parties. Some organisations may choose to fly development team members across to the UK to allow them to connect with the business, work directly on the project and socialise.
Similarly remote communication through video conferencing allows opportunity to read facial expressions, understand body language and communicate in a much more natural way. Many businesses have benefitted from using nearshore developers as an alternative to hiring in-house and there are many examples being successfully Agile teams.
Read more about successful nearshore developments here …
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