How Will Agile Software Practices Look in the Future?

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While agile adoption may be gaining popularity, it appears that Scrum is at the forefront of many agile implementations, according to a recent VersionOne survey. The top three reasons cited for adopting agile were to accelerate time to market, increase productivity, and more easily manage changing priorities.

Considering this survey, you might be wondering if Scrum’s momentum will last forever. I think that the bigger question is “How is agile going to look in the future?”

Recently, software pioneer Ken Schwaber posted on his blog that “Scrum is not the be-all and end-all process for software and product development.” Ken went on to mention possible qualities of the next great process that can replace Scrum.

If the history and evolution of software languages and frameworks is any guide, Scrum will continue to be in play for a long time. Consider the fact that Java, JavaScript, and the .NET Framework have been continually popular. But other languages are constantly being invented and are filling the gaps that these languages may not cover. PHP, Python, Ruby are prime examples.

Although Scrum is the most popular agile implementation, XP and kanban continue to thrive. Similarly, new methodologies will be invented as current ones evolve to fulfill the demands of changing dynamics.

While Scrum’s evolution is an open question, the methodology seems to be increasingly embracing some of the lean attributes of kanban. As software teams look for ways to improve agility, they establish new Generally Accepted Scrum Practices (GASP). Some of these new practices may end up being part of the core of Scrum.

What happens if the agile principles are forgotten along the path? Robert C. Martin (fondly called Uncle Bob) blogged that Scrum will be killed, just like waterfall, due to the trend of installing coaches as elites to manage the team, thus removing the agile process from team members. This is one perspective on what can kill agile.

Agile is centered on self-organized teams where coaches—ScrumMasters in the case of Scrum—are meant to defend the process and remind the team to hold to the process. A coach who acts as a team, schedule, or project manager is a step away from the tenets of the Agile Manifesto.

In any case, we can take comfort in the certainty that the agile movement will continue to look for more agility and reduction of waste. So, any methodology taking hold in the future will be more agile, lean, and more intuitive to implement. Moreover, the Agile Manifesto, at least in spirit, will still guide any future agile methodology.

In conclusion, Scrum will evolve over time and will eventually be replaced, but agile will remain. Companies will continue to look for fitting responses to their top challenges—accelerating time to market, increasing productivity, and managing changing priorities.

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Mukesh Chaudhary

Mukesh Chaudhary works as team lead and ScrumMaster where he is involved in coaching teams to build sophisticated applications using sound agile practices. Mukesh has a Masters in electrical engineering from the University of Memphis. He can be reached at mchadhry@hotmail.com.