A new concept goes into over-hype: Agile
The latest buzz in IT is of course Agile, and its bastard spawn DevOps. I've written before about how the change is becoming the steady state and stability the exception; and how the old mainframe-centric concepts of change control will have to adapt. I'm even confident that concepts from agile will play an important part in that. But nothing in that warrants the frenzied hype around agile right now. And most of all, nothing in that warrants letting the IT cowboys out of the corral.
Just because small teams of cool-tool developers can knock up websites with an agile approach has little relevance - yet - to monolithic corporate operational systems. Agile developers remind me of those testosterone idiots who fizz about on jet-skis on a Saturday afternoon in sheltered bays and wonder why ships need lifeboats and harbour pilots.
As Chris Clarke, VP of Product Management and Strategy at Collabnet, an international supplier of agile development and project management tools, put it, team based adoption of agile practices is easy and that has happened. Now the hard part begins. That’s the adoption of agile for large projects with distributed teams working on complex systems.
(BTW I was highly amused by this other quote from the same article
Robert Holler CEO of VersionOne, maker of another widely used suite of agile project management tools, said, “It will be a long implementation cycle..."
Agile is struggling to step up to large-scale development. To suggest that its concepts should be allowed to subvert all the stability and control that we have fought for decades to recover is madness. We had proper controls once in the mainframe days, then the distributed computing cowboys blew it all away . The introduction of proper Change Management and other ITIL disciplines has slowly clawed back some semblance of stability, of management of availability.
The whole world in the 21st Century is leaping around in a demented frenzy of fads and stampedes, whether it be shiny black phones or postal flight attendants or actionable service catalogues. IT needs to carefully and gradually evolve to a more flexible mode of operation. Ignore all the pundits bleating their "change or die" messages. If you are still running some MVS/COBOL or VAX/VMS or even Windows 2000, you know how fast the world really changes. The vendor-and-analyst industry (it is all one) survives on stampeding you - don't fall for it.
Attendees at the itSMF Australia conference in a couple of weeks can hear my keynote on the Twenty-Teens. One concept I introduce there is that we will gradually lose control of much in the environment that we traditionally had corralled, from servers to developers. We need to grow the controls we have around the environment to contain potential damage:
- service management to ensure what gets delivered maintains levels of utility and warranty, and to detect when it doesn't
- governance to set the tone, the rules, and the boundaries, and oversight to shoot anyone who goes outside them
- assurance: security to keep the riffraff out, audit of what's going on in the moshpit, maintaining necessary compliance, and driving professionalism into the now-empowered community. And risk - most of all risk management
Most of that stuff is pathetically immature in the IT industry. Broadly embracing agile concepts now would be like lowering the drinking age to 16 without having a police force (or social workers or hospitals). It is way too soon for the feral techs to be dancing around bonfires whooping up their victory over sensible IT. Break out the riot shields and batons and get 'em back to their desks... for now.