Defining Agile SCM: Past, Present & Future (2008)

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Agile Manifesto
The agilemanifesto.org states the following:  We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more. We propose some equivalents or alternatives that add value to SCM.

Individuals and Interactions Suitably Supported by Processes and Tools
SCM processes and tools should support the way that you work, not the other way around. Often, the reason behind frustrating SCM processes is trying to impose an overly-rigid process on a team, or attempting to use a tool that imposes a process into an organization that is not what the organization needs. SCM must be done in service to the flow of the value-stream and those who create value. It must achieve goals like repeatability, reproducibility and even traceability without compromising flow as a result.

One view of agile methods is that it is a license to hack and requires less discipline than traditional methods. In fact the reverse is true: agile methods typically require greater discipline and skills than traditional methods. A key tenet of Lean methods is that in order to move fast you can't afford errors and problems and thus need to be rigorous.

Applying this to SCM suggests that better understanding of SCM principles and tool usage by individuals and encouraging them, or making it easier, to do the right thing, is better than enforcing the process and absolutely forbidding the wrong thing.

Working Software and CM Processes over Comprehensive Documentation
CM supports the production of working software, but the challenge is to automate and ensure that appropriate processes are used that do not require huge process documentation.

Applying this also to the system being produced, we seek to automate as much as possible the production of supporting documentation (such as traceability reports). Information should not be repeated, and there should be a single master version.

About the author

Brad Appleton's picture Brad Appleton

Brad Appleton is a software CM/ALM solution architect and lean/agile development champion at a large telecommunications company. Currently he helps projects and teams adopt and apply lean/agile development and CM/ALM practices and tools. He is coauthor of the book Software Configuration Management Patterns, a columnist for the CMCrossroads and AgileConnection communities at Techwell.com,  and a former section editor for The C++ Report. You can read Brad's blog at blog.bradapp.net.

About the author

Steve Berczuk's picture Steve Berczuk

Steve Berczuk is a Principal Engineer and Scrum Master at Fitbit. The author of Software Configuration Management Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration, he is a recognized expert in software configuration management and agile software development. Steve is passionate about helping teams work effectively to produce quality software. He has an M.S. in operations research from Stanford University and an S.B. in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and is a certified, practicing ScrumMaster. Contact Steve at steve@berczuk.com or visit berczuk.com and follow his blog at blog.berczuk.com.

About the author

Robert Cowham's picture Robert Cowham

Robert Cowham has long been interested in software configuration management while retaining the attitude of a generalist with experience and skills in many aspects of software development. A regular presenter at conferences, he authored the Agile SCM column within the CM Journal together with Brad Appleton and Steve Berczuk. His day job is as Services Director for Square Mile Systems whose main focus is on skills and techniques for infrastructure configuration management and DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) - applying configuration management principles to hardware documentation and implementation as well as mapping ITIL services to the underlying layers.

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