“I’ll take ‘Buzzwords’ for a quarter billion pounds, please…”

As a programmer it’s both instructive and hilarious to read the reasons behind the massive “failure of the agile methodology” in developing the UK’s new Universal Credit Programme. Granted, the link-bait title and the content of this article don’t quite match, but the initial message being communicated is that Agile failed on this massive, two year long project and that hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted.

But if you look more closely at the article you’ll find this little nugget:

That delay suggests there was not enough of an iterative feedback loop built into the programme, according to Jose Casal-Gimenez, chairman of the BCS agile methods specialist group and expert on Kanban and Lean agile methodologies. “It wasn’t agile enough in this fundamental area,” he said, adding that in his view there wasn’t enough emphasis on “real-world testing” and learning from user feedback.

I could be completely wrong, but my interpretation of this passage is that some bureaucrat read an article about Agile being a magical silver bullet for software development and decided this project would be agile without having the first clue what that really means or how to implement it.

Practical upshot for developers: if your PHB (pointy-haired-boss) reads the ZDNet article he’s going to get the impression that Agile is snake oil and insist on something else with a more tried and true legacy (like waterfall?) for future software development.  Agile, when done correctly can deliver higher quality solutions in less time… but you need everyone in the process — from stake holders, business analysts, managers, developers, testers, QA, etc — to understand what Agile really is and how it’s properly done.  It seems the managers of this UK project — as well as the writer of the ZDNet article — need more education on this point.