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Some businesses should stay away from Agile

I'm pretty sure you know that very well ... I've spent today wandering around thinking about the topic of corporate IT and Agile. One of my thoughts were related to education and the type of person one wants to have on a team. I even started to write a blog post about it but stopped because its a broad topic and certainly needs more thinking to make sense.

But one thing seems to be clear. While the corporation views IT in a supportive function Agile might not work at all. They will always set a fixed deadline, a fixed budget and expect a full feature set. The fun part will always be that "full feature set" will never be clearly defined, because they just want "something that helps the business". And obviously there is no time to figure out what that is, because they have a business to run. ;-)

So unless "the business" understands that software development is always new product development with all the risks that come with it, those projects will always be in trouble. They would be better off to buy off the shelf software instead of attempting to develop their own.

When you develop a new product you usually don't make it a fixed-time, fixed-budget and fixed-scope project. You target a point in time (a trade show maybe) to release a first version or you have a budget and go as long as it lasts. Or you define the scope and accept that time and money needed to accomplish the task are unknown.

If you are a business and just want support from IT, then you should stay clear from any form of development. It certainly is far better to choose off the shelf software that can be customized. You then pay people to do specific work and that's basically what ERP systems like SAP R/3 offer. The good thing about this is that you can get people who are really qualified to do the job, because the way how such a system gets customized doesn't change so drastically as for example Java web frameworks or technology in general. It may be expensive, but it certainly is far more predictable than custom software development. It's kind of calling a carpenter or plumber - just a bit more advanced.