The Agile Tribe

Teaching an old dog new tricks – Trick No. 1

on November 23, 2009

Author: Nic Woollett

I’m currently working on an in-sourcing project that involves only mainframe legacy systems. We’re attempting to stick as closely as possible to pure Agile principles. To get the most out of Agile we had to make a series of fundamental changes to how we (mainframe legacy programmers) operate.

Our approach took three parts:

The first of these was – Story elaboration

This was interesting – not using the waterfall method of waiting for fully described business requirements was initially a challenge. Developers were required to be fully involved in the elaboration process & this lead to a greater understanding of our business needs. It was a fundamental shift from “tell me what you want and I’ll build it” mentality.

It was quickly realised that we weren’t going to get the full story fleshed out in one elaboration session so the mentality of “build and show” was encouraged. This is iterative development within iterative development! It’s much better to be able to show the team something than theorise. After a few tweaks here and there the story is completed to everyone’s satisfaction – that renders the old waterfall post-implementation complaint of “that’s what I asked for but not what I wanted!” moot. After a while a common understanding takes over and (as a developer) you start to know what the business will want.

What I learnt:

I don’t always know what’s best for the customer and the customer doesn’t always know what they want. The best result comes from a show and tell style collaboration and co-location is a must.


One response to “Teaching an old dog new tricks – Trick No. 1

  1. Joe says:

    Development with Legacy Software is just hard to do in general. Yet if you take it a piece at a time and slowly begin to apply agile techniques, over time, the software will become more malleable.

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