Sponsorship + Momentum = Agile Success

Some agile projects are doomed from the start. They simply cannot get going. The team brainstorms with the business folks, defines requirements, creates mock-ups, conducts feedback sessions — then repeats the process again and again. They have paved the road to nowhere.

How does this happen? How can a team of software engineers and managers spend weeks and months working on a software application and have nothing to show for it?

Being agile is not good enough

Sound ridiculous? It’s not. I was once on the periphery of just such a project. I was not on the project team but I acted as a technical subject matter expert regarding the dataset to be processed by the application.

Requirements were written and tossed. Why? They simply missed the mark. Trying to please everyone often results in pleasing no one. Back to the drawing board.

Requirements were re-written. Mock-ups were created. A software application was written and made it all the way to pilot deployment. Another miss. The application couldn’t attract enterprise commitment. It did too few things well and left out too many others. Tossed again.

Requirements were written for the third time. More mock-ups and a prototype application. More problems achieving enterprise commitment. Everyone gets frustrated. I lost interest.

How does this happen to project teams?

  1. No Executive Sponsor. If your software application is intended for enterprise use, you must have an executive sponsor. This must be a business person at the VP level or above who has a vision for the application. Someone with the respect and stature to make decisions and get people moving. Enterprise projects don’t succeed without executive sponsorship.
  2. Lack of Momentum. The business doesn’t care about requirements and mock-ups. Those items are artifacts of the development process. The business wants solutions. The development team must move fast to deliver useful software and keep improving it to show progress. That’s the core of agile development.

Agile teams are not immune from organizational dynamics but they know how to move fast. Line up that executive sponsor and go. Don’t look back. Don’t second guess. Don’t make excuses. Just go!

Updated: February 9, 2011 — 7:59 am