What is agile or eXtreme training development?

When do you use agile development?
Agile development is more than a trend

April 30, 2011

I took time to respond to the April BQ, because I am currently working for an overzealous high octane client who does not know what they want and they want it now! Does this sound familiar? Moreover, I was laughing so much from Jay’s comment that I did not want to spoil the levity.

To answer the question in a world of constant interrupt, instant demand, and I want it the day before yesterday even though it’s undefined today, as a consultant you have the following options:

  • Sleep less and work more.
  • Hire help and earn less.
  • Compromise quality.
  • Some or all of the above.

Although, I never want to be accused of discouraging anyone from poking fun at Tony, I do want to stand to his defense because the question does have merit in the context of the right scenario. With this in mind, let’s begin by repainting the scenario before seriously responding to the question.
Your CIO, CTO, or most likely the CFO calls you into the office to discuss an upcoming enterprise application under development. In the discussion, you learn the company is upgrading their CRM, financials, back office, front office, audit, HR, or a highly used, extremely strategic, and most importantly critical to operations system. During the discussion, you learn that the development team is using an “agile” or “eXtreme” application development approach which differs from the conventional gather customer requirements, write specifications, develop to milestones, and release approach, which typically applies to enterprise application development.

Agile Characteristics
In the “agile” or “eXtreme” model, releases occur rapidly, like every four to six weeks, requirements are fulfilled based on how quickly the work can be done as opposed to the customer priority, and the robustness of the application increments over time with each release. (Also don’t forgot, requirements are simultaneously collected post release in the form of complaints about poor performance, lack of functionality, and bugs.)

As you may gather, the challenges to training with an “agile” or “eXtreme” development team are formidable and include the following:

  • Legacy systems never truly go away.
  • Change management occurs throughout the duration of development and more.
  • System performance generally is slower than a legacy system because load and heap management are not attended to until later in development.
  • Users’ perceptions of the system are generally negative until a couple of months after the ‘final’ release when application support is considered “maintenance”.
  • Training development occurs during a period when the application functionality often does not exist or fails to function properly until a few days before release.

In this scenario, when the CFO says, “I want new and updated training every four to six weeks to parallel agile releases,” what strategy do you execute?
Agile Drivers
As you probably surmise agile application development requires agile and eXtreme training development. This über approach requires a rethinking, retooling, and redirection of the conventional ADDIE methodology, because it redefines the role, activities, and deliverables of a training developer. This past year I read an article by Elliott Masie and a recent post by Kasper Spiro, who introduce agile development, yet neglect to provide the context for its use, which makes the concept appear more ID trendy than in concert with a larger development effort.

I began engaging in agile development efforts in 2005 at Wells Fargo during the release of a PeopleSoft CRM for their Private Client Services. In 2006 I co-wrote a white paper with Rosendo Gonzalez, and presented the article, eXtreme Application Development, Learning Models and Risk Management, at the International Conference on Distance Education (ICDE) in Rio de Janeiro. Internationally, my article and presentation were highly attended mostly by people from outside of North America except for the Canadians, because agile application development was already an ongoing course of action. The primary reason and driver indubitably relates to cost management considerations and operations, because agile development can provide a means to more effectively manage costs over time. For this reason in the scenario, you speak to the CFO.

Since 2005, four out of five of my consults are in concert with an agile application development effort. To learn the nomenclature, context, and expectations influencing the role and execution of agile and eXtreme training development, please see eXtreme Application Development, Learning Models and Risk Management.


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