How to Avoid Five Common Mistakes During the Transition to Agile

By Ian Culling  |  Posted 2010-07-08 Print this article Print

The agile methodology is quickly becoming a preferred approach to software development. Agile offers a lightweight framework for helping teams maintain a focus on the rapid delivery of software projects. But even the most carefully prepared teams can make mistakes. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Ian Culling explains how to avoid the top five most common mistakes during the transition to agile.

Through a process of continuous planning and feedback, the agile methodology ensures that value continues to be maximized throughout an organization's software development process. Though these benefits may compel businesses to implement agile, the transition and subsequent scaling within the organization can introduce some challenges and growing pains.

While there is no perfect formula to guarantee success, there are several common mistakes that companies should avoid when making the transition to agile. These common mistakes can derail even the most carefully prepared strategy. The following are the five mistakes, followed by the corrective steps that project managers can take to avoid them in the first place.

Mistake No. 1: Skimping on training and education

Perhaps the most common mistake companies make relates to training and education. Training can obviously be time-consuming and expensive. But, when changing a fundamental business process, ensuring that team members truly embrace the hows and whys of agile is critical.

While much emphasis is placed on training pilot teams, many organizations assume that these pilot team members have all the information they need to bring the rest of the organization up to speed. This assumption fails to take into account not only the value of extensive experience and broad expertise that a professional agile coach can bring, but also the limited bandwidth of internal team members whose primary responsibility is developing code.

In the end, there is no substitute for experienced agile coaching and consulting. Most teams scaling agile face similar challenges, so bringing in experts who have already successfully proliferated agile across organizations can make all the difference in the speed and ultimate success of deployment.

A relatively small, upfront investment in planning, on-site coaching and ongoing mentoring can keep teams from spinning out of control and wasting time in their attempt to overcome challenges that many experts have faced on previous projects.

Ian Culling is CTO at VersionOne. Ian brings more than 20 years of broad IT experience to the CTO role. Ian lends tremendous expertise to his areas of responsibility, including software product management, design and development, and enterprise IT. Ian has significant practical experience with the introduction, scaling and adaptive execution of agile methods, having initially implemented strict XP with a single team in 2000. Since that time, Ian has progressed to lead and coach both small and large organizations in their transition to agile methods. Prior to joining VersionOne, Ian led the adoption of agile methods at Alogent Corporation as vice president of development, leveraging aspects of Scrum for scaling across multiple teams and products. This, combined with select XP developer practices and approach for planning and tracking, resulted in a Scrum-wrapped XP implementation (now a fairly common model within the agile community today). He can be reached at

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