Product Innovation Trends

Why we Should Rethink the Agile Manifesto: Complexity has Increased

Derwyn Harris | September 4, 2014

This is the fourth post in a series examining the changes that have occurred since the Agile Manifesto was published and the implications they have on how we might consider the Manifesto today. Find the first post here

In the previous two posts in this series I discussed that the world has changed and software is now everywhere. The third reason for reviewing the Agile manifesto is simply that complexity has increased, both at the product and company level. Building products used to be simpler as hardware products could only handle so many lines of code, and web applications only had to worry about a couple of browsers and monitor sizes, and there were fewer programing frameworks.

In the modern product delivery survey conducted with Forrester, it was found that 55% of companies had over 100 products and 87% of companies had multiple teams working on projects. 70% of companies stated that they release products quarterly or more frequently. 61% of projects had at least four different teams involved, while only 4% of stakeholders were co-located in close proximity. 23% of products now consist of both hardware and software elements.

Today, products are more complex by their very nature, often performing multiple tasks simultaneously, and generally in a smaller form factor. Hardware contains a lot more software; software products need to consider many more devices and situations; and open source has provided the development community with many more libraries, frameworks and languages from which to choose. The range of products available is wider and product development has become more complex. A greater number of platforms must be supported – in 2001 Firefox and Chrome did not exist yet, now there are many browsers, as well as many different devices and platforms on which to browse. That’s not to say there was no complexity back in 2001, but there have been significant added layers of complexity since then.

Many products now have a much greater ‘ecosystem,’ in that they operate in conjunction with other products to enhance functionality. For example, the success of Apple’s iPad was around its ecosystem, that is, the applications that it enables and which enable it with greater functionality. Nest’s vision was not just around home thermostat but more around the broader ecosystem of home control which, bigger picture, was what Google was interested in when they acquired Nest.

When we look at the complexity of companies, technology has progressed so much that we now have the ability to communicate across distributed teams in many ways that were unavailable in 2001, enabling geographically dispersed teams to work together more efficiently, but which can also amplify the organizational challenges of product delivery. There is less a need for everyone to be in the same room, and many organizations have product teams both here in the United States and overseas.

Read the next post in the series here. Find me on Twitter or share your thoughts on the Manifesto in the comments below and download my eBook “A Modern Take on the Agile Manifesto.”

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