Agile Systems Development - Executive Overview Course Outline

Course Outline


This half course is intended as an introduction to agile development methods for managers and executives - it gives a broad overview of the methods themselves, the benefits promised, how to approach implementing them and the real-world problems you should expect. It aims create a common language and baseline of understanding - it focuses on the 'why' and 'what' rather than details of 'how'. It normally results in active discussion and questioning and helps to flush out people's concerns and misconceptions about agile early in the adoption process. We include opportunities for company specific discussions and Q & A.

Target Audience

An understanding of the 'Big Picture' is essential to all those involved in adopting agile: IT managers, Project Managers, Transformation Agents, Senior Management, Senior Technical Leaders


  • Check-In: To help break the ice and get everyone to say something a so form part of the group, we go around the room asking each to say one or two (literally!) words that describe how they feel about being here. This gives an idea of the level of apprehension, enthusiasm, scepticism, etc. (10 mins maximum.)
  • Fears & Hopes: To follow up, ask everyone to write on post-its their hopes and fears for agile in their organisation (one item per post-it) and place them on a poster on the wall with Hopes & Fears columns. Facilitator reads out samples - we'll try to address fears during the course. (15 mins maximum)
  • Plan Driven versus Agile: Agile is a fundamentally different process control model from more traditional methods - its adaptability comes from continuous assessment, feedback and learning as development progresses. It uses empirical rather than deterministic control methods. This paradigm shift has widespread implications for the adopting organization.
  • Overview of the Agile Manifesto: Published in 2001, the manifesto describes the common values and principles shared by all agile methods, such as Scrum and XP. However, it is often misinterpreted as a license to dispense with process disciplines such as planning and documentation - a myth addressed in this module.
  • Business Benefits of Agile: Agile promises multiple benefits including improvements in quality, productivity, time to market and total lifetime costs. These, and others described in this module, complement the responsiveness and flexibility at the heart of agile.
  • State of Agile Adoption: From the first public appearance of Scrum in 1995, the agile movement has steadily gained traction in global industry. The last couple of years have seen it overtake waterfall methods in popularity. As the movement matures, there is emerging evidence that the promised benefits are now being realized en-masse in professional development teams.
  • An Agile Case History: Its always useful to see how innovations like agile appear in real world contexts - here we examine a case history of a global IT operation that adopted agile and discuss some of the issues and benefits they experienced.
  • Commonly Adopted Agile Methods: Of all the specific implementations of agile, combinations of Scrum and XP have emerged as the most popular, though many others such as DSDM, ASD, FDD and Crystal still maintain a minor presence. This module provides an overview of the practices used most commonly, and introduces the emerging Lean and Kanban based approaches.
  • Team Roles and Perspectives: Agile methods re-emphasis the importance of individuals and the team in creating great software - self-organisation, joint accountability and team oriented performance management drive new behaviours in the team. This module provides a fresh look at leadership, coordination, product management and other stakeholder roles.
  • Lessons Learned: Ken Schwaber, co-inventor of Scrum, stated that 75% of agile implementations will fail to realize expected benefits. Agile is not a prescriptive method - implementing it as per the text book does not guarantee success. Experiences and lessons learned across industries and project contexts reveal agile adoption 'anti-patterns' and provide symptoms of problems as well as suggesting remedies.
  • Adopting and Scaling Agile: Implementation of agile can be bottom-up (initiated by development teams), top-down (mandated by management), all at once ('shock-therapy') or gradual (evolutionary). Methods such as Scrum and XP recommend team sizes of less than 10 co-located members with few dependencies on outside groups. In this module we explore the various strategies for adopting and scaling agile. We deal with topics such as larger development teams, offshore members, legacy code, separate teams for architecture, database or platform technologies, and other real-world difficulties.