Adopting Evolutionary/Agile Database Techniques
AgileData.org: Techniques for Disciplined Agile Database Development
|This site has presents a wide range of philosophies, proven techniques, and one or two reasonable theories about effective ways to go about the data-oriented aspects of software development. What it hasnít done is discussed what you need to do to succeed at them. Until now. in this article I describe how your organization can adopt the agile database techniques described at this site. My expectation is that it will be difficult for many organizations to adopt agile database techniques. Itís not because there is any inherently complex about them, the problem is due in the most part to cultural inertia.||
To successfully adopt these philosophies and techniques you must:
the way you look at software development
the challenges you face
us help you become agile
philosophies and techniques described at this site have several significant
implications for your organization. My
experience is that you must accept that:
needs to work closely together. Software development is a
communication game, and as Cockburn
documentation is the worst form of communication available
to you whereas face-to-face communication standing around a whiteboard is
the best. Simple things such as
co-locating the team in a single workspace, using
simple tools such as
whiteboards and paper, and having project stakeholders as active members of
your team will improve your productivity by at least an order of magnitude.
models and documents are finished when the software ships.
Itís an iterative and incremental world now, not a serial one.
requirements are fully defined for the release of a system, if at
all, only until the software is ready to go to final acceptance testing.
Until then they might change. The
same thing can be said of your logical data model, if you even create one,
work products evolve as work progresses on the system and may even change just
hours before the production baseline of your system is finalized.
Agile requires significantly greater discipline. Although this isn't what the traditionalists want to hear, the reality is that Agile approaches require significant greater discipline on the part of practitioners compared with traditional approaches.
within your IT department will shift.
Changes in process always entail shifts within the power structure of an
organization, and Agile Data is no exception.
Agile database techniques shift the way that enterprise concerns,
particularly those pertaining to data, are considered.
Architectural model reviews are a thing of the past because your
models evolve over time and because
reviews are a ďprocess smellĒ in the
agile development indicating that youíve made an organizational mistake
earlier in your project. One
way to look at it is if someone is qualified to review a work product why
didnít you involve them in its initial development?
Existing organizational structures, particularly those based on
specialized skills or a command and control structure, need to be
reworked in favor of a more organic structure.
needs to become actively involved. The day of the specialist
who attends reviews, or has work products submitted to them for review and
feedback, is over. The day of
the bureaucrat who merely pushes paper and has no direct influence on the
creation, maintenance, operation, or support of a system should never have
come about in the first place. Bureaucrats
canít hide behind their onerous and prescriptive processes anymore,
instead they must roll up their sleeves, work closely with project teams,
and actually add value to your IT efforts.
People who fight this concept are likely good candidates for
re-education and in extreme cases may need to be made aware of opportunities
in other organizations (if you get my meaning).
generalizing specialists now.
We need generalizing specialists now.
needs to rethink their approach and beliefs.
There are many thought provoking ideas presented at this site.
It is possible to take an evolutionary approach to database design.
There is more to modeling than the
UML, or data for that matter.
There are many different ways that you can approach development, one
size does not fit all. Many technical issues often thought to be the sole domain of
databases, including both
referential integrity and
transaction control, are
also pertinent within your objects. You
have many technical options available to you, and they all have their
strengths and weaknesses. The
point is that these ideas are likely to go against what you currently
believe, or how you currently prefer to work.
Get over it.
need to understand the challenges that you are likely to face when introducing
agile data techniques into your organization.
My experience is that the most difficult challenges that you will need to
overcome are not technical in nature but instead are people oriented.
At the risk of promoting stereotypes, I have found that experienced IT
professionals, novice developers, and managers all seem to have their own unique
challenges that need to be overcome. Letís
look at each group one at a time.
IT professionals, often people with twenty or more years in the industry,
invested the time to understand agile software development.
taken, or been allowed, the time to try the techniques and philosophies
described at this site.
comfortable with change, particularly change that dramatically shifts the
political power structure within your IT department.
convinced that their existing approaches work (which they do in some
situations) so donít see the need to change their ways.
had bad experiences in the past with ďcode and fixĒ (CAF) approaches.
Because they donít understand agile software development they often
equate it with CAF and therefore assume that agile techniques are a bad
Agile Are You? describes how to determine if a team is agile or not.
The article How Agile Are You? describes how to determine if a team is agile or not.
some very good points that arenít well addressed by the agile community,
such as data-oriented and
enterprise issues, and therefore they feel that
agile techniques arenít sufficient for their needs.
that their situation is unique, perhaps they work in a Fortune 50 company
(although 49 other organizations are also in this situation) or a government
agency, and therefore agile techniques wonít work for them.
on symptoms, and not the root causes of problems within their IT
organization, and therefore they havenít questioned their preferred
approach to development.
coded in years and donít realize the implications of the new techniques
and tools currently being used by developers.
Java/C# development is significantly different than COBOL development.
Java/C# development is significantly different than COBOL development.
myths and misconceptions promoted by to other experienced IT professionals whom they respect,
unfortunately people who are also struggling with agile concepts and whom
are likely to tell them what they want to hear, and as a result feel that
they donít need to continue looking into agility.
specialists, often with years if not decades of experience,
and therefore have difficulty understanding the bigger development picture.
likely scared that they donít fit into agile development (and very likely
donít, given their current skillset).
My June 2006 column in Dr Dobb's Journal
addresses the issue of how traditionalists can become productive members of
an agile team.
My June 2006 column in Dr Dobb's Journal addresses the issue of how traditionalists can become productive members of an agile team.
IT professionals are also struggling with learning agile techniques, although
they face different challenges. They
very narrow experience, if any, as a
have the experience to appreciate the bigger picture, or at least to
appreciate its nuances.
focused on a single technology or programming language.
within your organization have their own unique issues regarding agility.
needs to approach agility with an open mind, ideally without any preconceptions.
They need to look at the big picture, recognize that they have serious
problems that arenít going to go away unless they act.
Ideally everyone needs to work with, and be mentored by, experienced
agile developers in order to learn these new approaches.
Although it is possible to bootstrap your project team, and even your
entire organization, into agile software development you are much better advised
to seek the help of people who have gone before you.
Education and training in agile software development is also important
although not as critical as good mentoring.
developers and managers need the opportunity to try these new ways, and more
importantly be given the time it takes to break themselves of their ďbadĒ
non-agile habits. Novice
developers need to focus on education/mentoring as well as simply gaining
experience. Novice developers will
likely learn agile techniques easier than experienced developers will as they
have less baggage to discard along the way.
strategy is to start with a pilot project that tries the new techniques in
practice so you can gain some insight into how theyíll work within your
organization. Although this enables
the individual team to be agile the challenge is that the rest of your
organization is still following your existing, non-agile approach.
The implication is that they may expect certain models or deliverables to
be delivered at specific times in specific formats, or they may require status
reports or other management artifacts, or they may require you to follow their
non-agile procedures. Ideally you
should negotiate away the need to venture into this bureaucratic morass,
realistically you often canít and therefore you put your pilot project at risk
of failure (exactly what many of the bureaucrats are hoping for).
One way to
overcome this problem is to assign one or two people on your team to be a
blocker. In North American football
the primary goal of a blocker is to prevent the other team from sacking your
quarterback or tackling your receivers, either of which would cause your play to
fail. In software development a
blocker attends the meetings of the bureaucrats and produces the work products that
they require, freeing up the rest of the team to focus on the activities that
actually lead to building your system. The
blockers effectively implement a ďprocess faÁadeĒ around your team that
makes it appear to the rest of the organization that your team is following
their existing procedures. This
satisfies the bureaucrats, yet prevents them from meddling with the people that
are doing the real work. Although
it sounds like a wasted overhead, and it is because it would be far more
effective to divert both the blockers and bureaucrats to efforts that produce
something of value, the advantage is that it enables the rest of the team to get
the job done. The role of blocker
is often taken on by your teamís project manager or coach, although in the
past I have let this be a revolving role on the project so as to spread out the
pain of dealing with the paper pushers.
following list describes several important factors that you need to consider
when bringing agile database techniques into your organization.
patient, it will take a generation. I believe that the
adoption curve for agile software development, including agile database
techniques, will be similar to that of object technology.
Object technology was first being considered within the business
community in the late 1980s and at the time of this writing many
organizations, often referred to as the Late Majority or Laggards on the
technology adoption curve (Moore
2002), are still struggling with adopting object orientation (OO).
Thatís fifteen years by my watch, and I expect no different for
agile software development (the implication is that it may be 2020 before
your organization finally catches up).
be too fervent.
The surest way to turn someone off of agile techniques is to try to
convince them that agile is the only way.
sixth philosophy of Agile Data Ė recognize that you
should strive to find the appropriate sweet spot between extremes. The
implication is that you might not become as agile as youíd like right
away, but you very like could become more agile than you currently are.
go in blind.
Reading this book is a good first step towards becoming more agile in
your data-oriented activities, but itís only the first step.
Do some more reading before you try to adopt the techniques and
philosophies described at this site, www.agilealliance.com
and www.agilemodeling.com are
great resources that you should take advantage of.
Talk with people who are following agile techniques on their own
projects to discover what theyíve experienced.
Get involved with the agile data community, the
mailing list page
lists good online resources, and share your own experiences.
underestimate the politics. Process is politics, and
when you change the process as radically as I describe at this site
many people will obviously take issue with the necessary changes.
Be prepared to find work elsewhere. Your organization may not be ready for agility, and worse yet may not be for some time. The implication is that you have a very difficult decision to make Ė do you continue to wait and hope that an opportunity arises within your organization, do you try to create such an opportunity, or do you update your resume and start looking for work elsewhere. As Ron Jeffries likes to say ďChange your organization or change your organization.Ē Itís your life, take control of it.
We actively work with clients around the world to improve their information technology (IT) practices, typically in the role of mentor/coach, team lead, or trainer. A full description of what we do, and how to contact us, can be found at Scott W. Ambler + Associates.