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Agile, the last trend in information technology

By Bernardo Ramos, IT security expert


Agile, the last trend in information technology

Information Technology and fashion

New trends in Information technology appear often as a matter of fashion

New trends in IT use to emerge as oscillations between two extreme positions:

  • Centralized / Distributed
  • Simple / Complex

Around 1980’s IBM launched a computer series based on an architecture labelled “RISC” (as "Reduced Instruction Set Computing") RISC was the answer to the need of improving the old good IBM 360 complex architecture (CISC) that had been designed as a rich and complex instruction set processor to maximize the computing speed by executing a lot of operations in each cycle.

RISC proposed to simplify CPU’s and make them more reliable using a reduced set of simple instructions that were executed in a shorter time lapse taking profit of multitasking capabilities of new computer architectures. Complex operations should be executed on several processors cycles.

With RISC IBM entered in the UNIX world with a high success.

And, then in 1990, IBM launched a new generation of computers based in an architecture they called POWER (Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC) that was essentially, a RISC computer with an enhanced instruction set.

So, they extended the instruction set with more instructions that were able to do complex operations in one single processor cycle

And here we have completed the oscillation and come back to the starting point (with different names, evidently)


Every new trend in IT comes along with a new Word or an acronym:

  • Client/server
  • Benchmark
  • Multimedia
  • E-mail
  • ERP
  • Wiki
  • CRM
  • Chat
  • Social Media
  • POC
  • Cloud
  • BPM
  • Big Data
  • BYOD

One of the last trends in Information Technology is also an oscillation and comes along with a new word: AGILE

It is a “cultural movement” proposing the replacement of classic project management by an iterative approach allowing to show results from the beginning with progressive improvement

It comes along with two words and an expression:


Is the most popular methodology for applying the “Agile” culture to the implementation of IT projects.

"A key principle of Scrum is its recognition that during product development, the customers can change their minds about what they want and need (often called requirements volatility), and that unpredicted challenges cannot be easily addressed in a traditional predictive or planned manner. As such, Scrum adopts an evidence-based empirical approach—accepting that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined, focusing instead on maximizing the team's ability to deliver quickly, to respond to emerging requirements and to adapt to evolving technologies and changes in market conditions" (from the Wikipedia entry on SCRUM) https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_(desarrollo_de_software).


Each one of the successive iterations of SCRUM method that usually take under 4 weeks to complete.

  • User story

The way user’s needs are explained.


AGILE: Let’s run away from the “classic” method for developing software

No more detailed functional specifications!.

No more functional analysis!.

Forget the specifications signed by your user/customer!.

Back to informal user requirements!.

Welcome back improvisation and trial and error!.

Development by progressive iterations.

Let’s take benefit of something we had discarded for not being professional enough!.

Let’s get rid of tunnel effect on IT projects.


What is the "Agile" methodology?

We can find in Internet many and very good descriptions on “Agile”

Just type agile in Google.

I shall not be so pretentious as to try to explain it myself.

Firstly, some others have already done it quite well.

Secondly, I am not the best expert on the matter and I would not be able to add anything new.

My aim is to think about this new? trend and provide some recommendations for those willing to look it closer and experience it .


Why the Agile methodology is good?

Because it suppresses the tunnel effect of traditional methods to implement IT projects.

Because by using it, the final result will be much closer to the actual needs of our users/customers.

Because you will detect sooner any limitation of the systems you are using to answer your user needs and you will be able to treat them quicker and at a lower cost.

Because you will identify sooner the most useful characteristics of the systems you are using for addressing your user needs and you will be able to use them from the design phase at a lower cost and with a faster adoption.

Because it makes easier for your users/customers to formalize their needs by using a language and processes simpler and better understandable for them.


What is the Agile methodology good for?

It is well adapted to small projects or big projects that are easy to separate in small phases.

For projects where the user is willingly ready and available to get involved.

For projects where users can easily express their needs.


Agile and BPM

Business process automation using Information Processing tools (BPM or Business Process Management) is an ideal candidate to the adoption of the Agile methodology.

BPM projects are small or easy to be splitted into small phases.

When we speak to a user on his BPM project, we are talking with him on his own activity with his own language and we are going to ask him to explain his own job,

In fact, what we are asking himself is to tell us his story (User Story).

BPM tools are designed to quickly deliver results and allow to make on-the-way adaptations with a progressive approach.


Agile: the “natural” methodology

Is the most similar one to human behavior.

When we are thinking about something, our brain does not perform a structured comprehensive analysis of the object of our thinking, we rather approach it little by little through successive steps.

The easiest and most natural way of explaining a process is to imagine a real life scene and tell a story with people doing things and experiencing real facts.

Methodology or culture?.

There exist formal methods that facilitate the application of the Agile “movement” but Agile, itself, is more an attitude rather than a methodology. It is a different cultural way of approaching Information .Technology projects.

And as a culture, for its adoption it is not enough just acquiring an adequate instruction (aptitude), but there is also necessary to change your behavior (attitude).

Security experts know a lot about the difference between aptitude and attitude, because they have experienced the difficulties to progress in security objectives, where it is capital to change behavior.

If we really wish to get full benefit form “Agile”, we must take into account and address a real change in the attitudes of involved actors.

But it is also a methodology and for a correct and profitable use, we shall need the help of some expert, mainly at the beginning.


Agile, key success factors

  1. Take into account the cultural aspect for changing behavior of all people involved in the Project, making them feel comfortable in a new situation where the starting point is no more a clear and detailed definition of user needs that will not change until the delivery of results.
  2. Get an expert’s help for properly applying the methodology without deviations.

The risk if we do not take into account the previous advices is entering in a deep frustration:

  1. Without the behavior change we shall trend to trying to get functional specifications as detailed and perfect as possible.

Especially if software development is outsourced.

Even more if purchasing department is involved.

This will make longer the first cycle (or “sprint”) going up till making it the only one and losing the dynamism of the methodology.

  1. Without an adequate support, we could deviate from the methodology by trying to deliver a result as complete and perfect as possible what will delay the process and we shall lose again the characteristic dynamism and flexibility of the methodology.

Agile is a new trend, but is it really new?

As most of fashion trends, even if there are always some innovative aspects, in essence it is something that was invented in the 80’s of the previous century and that has emerged now as a new trend as an answer to user’s dissatisfaction with traditional popular methodologies.