Do we need agile software development?

I find the agile manifesto not a very interesting paper. Just a couple of statements put together by a couple of guru’s (see the guru problem: ). What I find important is making your software agile. When your software is not agile you can sprint and talk your heads off on endless scrum meetings, but all you do is push an elephant (hear this great presentation by Hickey: Another one you will like (it’s in line with your remarks about the scrum master role:
On your remarks about bpm as I showed (a couple of things): I do not find that processes should be modelled in this way (did I write that?) perse. It is a choice that you have. If you do not choose to use it, the many years of research and development and use in practice of bpm can learn you a couple of things. Last time I showed my small (very very incomplete) bpms to a productmgr at the company where I’m doing a contactorjob at the moment, this mgr noticed a lot that is lacking in their homegrown workflowsolution. Maybe you have not seen working solutions, but they exist, in abundance. F. e. the bpmn and dmn modelers I use are open source from camunda, you can find them on github. Zalando works with camunda bpm Scepticism is good, I f.e. recently put messages about external dsl’s like bpmn on this forum. But it is good to inform oneself also, even about things that nauseate sometimes, to be able to construct opinions that are well grounded and eventually learn a couple of things that might prove of use.


I fully agree we must all keep an open mind at all times. I’ve dug myself into such a hole in terms of career and thinking before I discovered Elixir, Go and Clojure (LISP) that I cannot even begin to describe how narrow-minded and stupid I was. What divides great programmers from mediocre ones is the ability of the former to constantly self-improve, be curious and never settle for “good enough”.

To that end, I also agree that ideas and tools like BPMN and DMN are useful and practical. And that they might open up new perspectives in front of their students. All of this is true.

What I find myself in some disagreement with you though is the necessity of these ideas and tools; the criticality of their presence in a given project. Even though we must always strive for being better, we only have so much time to work (or even live). I am currently in the process of working the depth of my new skills (before going wide again, namely learning other languages / frameworks) and maybe this is why I somewhat degrade the value of process modelling tooling. Excuse me for that, I am trying very hard not to be biased. Just trying to combine having a lot of culture plus getting work done. It’s a tough balance.

As for the links, I already read all that you pasted in this thread. Awesome reading! I am very thankful for your sharing them.


9 posts were split to a new topic: Agile Development Tooling

Here’s an interesting discussion btw about that old dream (the myth of the citizen dev etc) / bpm.


Surviving Your Inevitable Agile Transition - J.B. Rainsberger (2014)

Should have the subtitle “The economics of software development”



Even Goldman Sachs uses BPM (from Camunda).

Goldman Sachs, who are using Camunda for their global workflow automation, 
is a tech company (and I do not think they pursue a low-code app development strategy)
11.30 AM - Case Study Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs Workflow systems provide vital infrastructure to the operation of the firm, 
coordinating the execution and delivery of millions of business-critical tasks across the 
entire Firm (including trade facilitation, regulatory rule computation, exception processing 
coordination, personnel onboarding and thousands of other business processes).

In this presentation, you will learn how Goldman Sachs is leveraging Camunda software 
at the heart of two of its Workflow platforms:

Workflow Elements – The Camunda process execution engine is integrated with 
a task engine, task cache and entitlements cache, wrapped by REST APIs, to implement a 
“managed appliance” which integrates with Firm systems and orchestrates both human 
and system processes at enterprise scale.

Decision Services Platform – The Camunda process execution engine is leveraged in 
our in-memory Decision Flow engine. The engine integrates high-performance
rule execution with data integration in an extension of the DMN standard. The platform 
leverages GS’s own open-source jDMN execution engine.

The Twitter discussion is pretty interesting, spent 15-20 minutes on it.

The inevitable conclusion is that it seriously depends on the needs of the organization. Some of them have outgrown the need for 20x smaller apps and want something huge that can orchestrate all their needs. I guess in this case BPM and family are a good fit (if used judiciously, as the Twitter discussion states).

That’s IMO a pretty rare case however. And is a niche for expensive consultants. Most of us programmers don’t want to be put in a very specific corner and if sh*t hits the fan, we want to have good career prospects.

Elixir is a niche at the moment also. And we’re not cheap, are we? :slight_smile: About orchestration / choreography Bernd Rücker from Camunda wrote interesting things, f.e.:

edit: this is an interesting read also:

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Is it not a means to sell your company for two times it’s current value in two years. Hire agile consultants, impose scrum on all teams, put the ten agile commandments on the walls throughout all buildings of the company. I doubt this is too cynical in many cases.
The message of Rainsberger is not my cup of tea.

In working with multiple companies and highly varying social structures, these are my two cents:

  1. Doing any kind of organizational structure ‘for the sake of it’ does not work, because people don’t know why they are doing it. This is very similar to attempting to uphold ‘universal laws’ without understanding why these rules (that usually are not as universal as they are claimed to be) are actually good most of the time.
  2. It is really important to keep on talking with each-other, to ensure that all developers are constantly unblocked and everyone is on the same page as to where the project is going.

I personally don’t think there is 'one golden Agile’gah, the capitalization, but rather I view the ideas outlined in the agile manifesto and the research that has been done since then as a bag of techniques that might (but not necessarily all of them might) help your organization to keep communicating.

I’m working for multiple companies and highly varying social structures already twenty years. What I described is what I literally see at the moment at a large company. Scrum imposed by authoritarian management, the manifesto on the walls etc. It’s a shareholder-value driven (value several milliards of euro’s) company, now for sale again for around two times the value it had four years ago. The stages of the lifecycle wherein applications are in this company differs. But it’s agile everywhere. I don’t think that is wise (I agree less or more with Simon Wardley who says this: and ). I see agile failing in the maintenance of a large legacy app, I was hired as contactor to help solve those problems. Again: you can talk your heads off at endless scrum meetings, but if you do not make the software itself easy adaptable (agile) you’re pushing an elephant. So that’s what I proposed after a look at the code there: refactor that application, help them to become more truly agile. Did that for 11 months. There are much more problems with scrum, see the Michael O. Church criticism links I already sent. I experienced scrum as very inefficient. Far too much talking. That is what Erik Meijer (he has worked for some companies also) also says in his agile presentation (the link this thread started with), “did you check in any code today?” “TDD (XP) is for pussies” + “you’re f*cked” with agile. Scrum your scrum; adapt it to a process that works. Tear those commandments from the walls and throw them in the garbagecan. And fire those expensive agile consultants that have no knowlegde of writing software. But maybe it’s more practical to just leave the company and find one that is not shareholder-value driven (no long-term vision and so) and pragmatic instead of dogmatic.


Every effective manager of software teams I’ve worked with has used some form of “Kanban” to keep track of what each team member has on their plate, provide visibility, and make sure things don’t get forgotten. One time 10 years ago it was a simple spreadsheet sent out every week with individual discussions when something new came up.

I used this spreadsheet approach myself a few times in different places, finally discovering the various online Kanban tools which I like a lot.

When showing this to my wife she exclaimed that this is what she used 20 years ago in a manufacturing company. Some ideas are just obvious and useful.


I think effective management depends on the situation. One parameter could be the stage of the lifecycle of the managed application. One size fits all is not a good idea, and processes should be adaptable. See Wardley’s excellent presentation (again:

That was a very good use of an hour, thanks for the pointer.

Even a mature commodity business that is still building any bespoke software in teams needs to co-ordinate that work in a way that’s transparent and efficient. A simple Kanban board with a prioritised backlog internal to that team is hard to beat for my tastes (which tend towards the highly pragmatic).

Identifying ‘what’ to spend time on (and what not to) is a different matter altogether. Related closely to growing a software system while keeping it adaptable. That is hard regardless of what process is followed.

I see you’re new here. Have you already watched presentations from Rich Hickey? This is one where he says interesting things about keeping software adaptable:
He has more good presentations, google for them if you like.

As I see it,“Agile” has been used and over used to the point it has no clear meaning.

I say:

  1. Define Agile.
  2. What are the alternatives?

A hero of mine does not seem to like scrum much either:

A programmers job is to understand the problem not go to 
stand-up meetings and scrum themselves to death.
7 distractions
• Open plan offices
• The latest stuff
• Twitter/Facebook (social media)
• Notifications (turn ‘em off)
• Links (don’t click on them)
• Ban Scrum etc.
• We can only do one thing at a time
Our brains are terribly bad at context switching

And more by Joe Armstrong:
“Links (don’t click on them)” hahahaha!


I finally wrote up my mini-thesis on this subject. Would be interested to get feedback from the people in this thread.

Also currently on the front page of Hacker News


Please don’t take this the wrong way but what puts me off such blog posts is ALWAYS the extremely long person introduction part (not talking about you, I read a lot of blogs and this is a very often recurring theme basically everywhere). IMO it’s perfectly enough to just put 1-2 paragraphs saying that you always had keen interest in all things related to project management, that you studied in an university for it but later found that the reality in managing software projects is very disconnected from what is taught by professors. And that would be the case closed and on to the content.

People like me want to get to the substance of the article quickly and here I am, spending 10 minutes reading about your background. I personally disliked that. You can just put a sentence along the lines of “In case you wonder why you should care about what I have to say about PM, here is {my background}” (the text between the curly braces would be a link to your other blog post). And, finito.

So if you are willing to take feedback about future posts – just skip the personal intro or minimize it to a few short sentences. Many people won’t believe your credentials and will relentlessly demean you regardless of them (especially on Reddit and HackerNews) so showing those in the beginning of the post makes zero difference.

I personally will believe what you have to say no matter if you were a PM for 15 years or not because I appreciate the different perspective no matter where it comes from.

I hope you view this is a constructive criticism and not as me being a douchebag.

Outside of that critique of mine, great article! :041: I enjoyed reading it to the end.

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