2016 Conference

Agile: Not Just for Developers Anymore

Why does agile development exist, and why does it make sense to involve the creatives in addition to developers? David DeMello, Director of Web Strategy, Cornell University, ILR School, covered those topics and more in “Agile: Not Just for Developers Anymore.”

Higher education is often more comfortable with traditional project management methodologies and the waterfall approach to planning. In practice, DeMello said these may help control the timeline, scope, and costs of a project, but sometimes at the expense of product quality and user satisfaction.

Waterfall is based on a one-way irreversible flow of activity, and can assume things that may not be true like that the customer knows exactly what they want and that the technology won’t change.

Agile development is not the waterfall approach.

The Why of Agile

Agile is a proven methodology to support incremental continuous improvement.

“Websites in particular aren’t buildings, roads, or automobiles,” DeMello said. You don’t launch and leave them. They are continually changing.

Modern websites need to be flexible, reusable, scalable, disposable (may need to choose a different path at some point), adaptable, maintainable, interoperable, and always improving.

The highest priority of agile is to “deliver working software on a regular basis and don’t make people wait,” explained DeMello. “Part of that is to create a feedback loop.”

What about Scrum?

Scrum as a practice is a big part of Agile. Scrum follows an ongoing process including:

  1. Looking at the backlog.
  2. Prioritizing.
  3. Planning.
  4. Sprinting.
  5. Standing the software/website up.
  6. Tracking visibly.
  7. Tracking electronically.
  8. Building with rigor.
  9. Really finishing.
  10. Reviewing and reflecting.

The backlog is made up of user stories often using the Role-Feature-Benefit Template, explained DeMello. For example: As a [Role], I want to achieve [Feature] so that [Benefit].

Part of the process of writing the user stories is to evaluate if they really have value.

Agile can be extended to manage requirements and content strategy, UX and interaction design, front and back-end engineering, and visual design and theming.

The creatives on cross-functional teams can feel like they’re holding up the real work in Agile, explained DeMello, but content strategy and UX are important components and deliverables.

“The more we know about what we should build, the better the software will be,” he said.

In closing DeMello said: “Keep calm and fake it until you make it. Just try something…And then try again.

Check out DeMello’s “Agile: Not Just for Developers Anymore” presentation.

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By Mark H. Anbinder

Mark is the Web Communications Manager in Cornell University's Campus Life Marketing & Communications Office. He works in higher education to pay for his fine food and beverage habits, hockey travel, and dog treats, and publishes 14850 Magazine all about Ithaca.

Find Mark on Twitter at @mhaithaca and his dogs on Instagram at @mhapuppers.