The Agile Tribe

How Open Source Software Facilitated our Agile Journey

on September 28, 2009

Author: Colin McCririck

Reflecting back on our recent Agile journey it occurred to me that despite the many roadblocks and cultural fronts of resistance we hit, open source software was a great enabler on our journey.

We started adopting a number of open source tools at about the same time that we started rolling Agile practices out to our teams. Two things I love about open source software:

  • The freedom it provides. It’s not about being free (there are costs), it’s about allowing developers the freedom to download, install, play and use at their discretion without the need to ask for budget, approval, finance and so on. There are still restrictions but the freedom provides software engineers much greater speed and productivity to do the job they’re paid to do and it removes much of the bureaucracy (eg. funding approvals) that software engineers hate.
  • Our software engineers love open source software because the skills and experience they gain in the open source tools is more portable and long lived than what they were used to with proprietary tools. There is also a greater feeling of community collaboration and the ability to work with like minded engineers in other organisations.

So what has this got to do with agile?

Agile promotes principles of simplicity, speed and collaboration. The ability of engineers to make decisions and solve their own problems in the software life cycle certainly facilitates these principles. Probably the other theme for us has been around culture and staff empowerment. Collaboration has been key, engineers are collaborating with each other to find the right open source tool and collaborating with the business day to day via standups, retrospectives and showcases. The results are faster cycle time, happier customers and more satisfied staff.

Our world is far from perfect. There is always room for continuous improvement. But the use of open source at the same time as the cultural change from Waterfall to Agile has helped with staff motivation and the reduction of resistance to change.

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