The Agile Manifesto: what it means for our customers
Seventeen years ago, seventeen people¹ spent a weekend in Utah and the world of software development changed forever.
The delegates emerged from that ski resort with a one-page document called the Agile Manifesto: four values, backed by twelve principles, which distilled all their combined industry transformation experience.
The Manifesto took the development world by storm. Some people recognised it for what it was: a state of mind; a culture shift. Some people tried to convert it to a set of processes and methodologies, which rather misses the point. But either way, everything changed.
The four values
The Manifesto identifies four values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
and then it is explicit that the things on the right have value, but the things on the left should be valued more.
You could almost paraphrase the Manifesto as saying something like:
If you recognise everyone involved in the creation of software is a human, with human feelings and needs, better software and happier people will emerge.
The twelve principles
The values are underpinned by twelve principles, which are simple descriptions of how to put the values into practice. Among them are principles advocating things like:
- Deliver frequently: instead of planning massive updates, lots of small updates allow for a more rapid feedback cycle.
- Trust people and allow them to organise themselves.
- Simplicity — maximising the amount of work not done — is essential.
- Welcome changing requirements.
- Reflect regularly on how things are done and adjust if things aren’t working.
What it means for people we work with
When you work with Fish Percolator or another company that works this way, it’s not like working with contractors in other industries.
- You might think you need a really clear design and specification upfront.
- You might think you need to know which technologies are appropriate for your idea.
- You might think you need to find the whole budget for your project before you talk to us.
- You might think you need to know what your end users want before you’ve even got any end users.
The truth is that the best software emerges when we work together, so I love to sit down and have a short chat (free of charge) about any ideas that people have even when they’re only partially formed.
The best way to test your idea is to get people using it as quickly as possible, which is why we always insist on small micro-contracts. You’re never going to hear us quoting for a massive 6-month project upfront: in our experience 1–2 weeks’ work is all you need to advance your project to the point where you can release new features to your customers and start the critical feedback cycle you need to work out which direction to move in next.
If your project doesn’t exist at all yet, no worries! We can build an MVP as the first iteration of your product.
MVP stands for “minimum viable product”: it’s the smallest possible step from thin air to something your customers want to use. It differs from a “proof of concept” or a “hack” because it is the foundation of your product — you don’t throw it away once you have people using it; it’s a stable piece of software you can build on top of.
Software doesn’t have to have a massive outlay. In 3 years of business with many kinds of tech startups, we’ve perfected the process of kick-starting a new tech product from scratch, many parts of which are now automated. Normally you can get your ideas to the point where people will want to start using them (and deployed onto the internet) in that initial 1–2 week project.
I know it can sound hard to believe, especially if your idea sounds really big, but that’s the power of collaboration instead of working to a strict plan. Your vision of the product might be massive and complex, but perhaps there’s a kernel in there that can be tested without huge upfront design and specification effort, and we can find and develop that kernel together.
What it could mean for your organisation
The Agile Manifesto feels like a bit of a trade secret of the software industry, and there’s really no reason why it can’t be extended to other industries that are building something.
If you have been inspired by this brief introduction to a new way of working that places humanity, trust and small manageable steps at the centre of business practice, we can introduce your organisation to it with an engaging 40-minute talk or a more in-depth workshop. You might be surprised at how well the values and principles translate to just about any other industry.
About Fish Percolator
Fish Percolator is a UK-based micro-business that specialises in creating that initial spark of technology needed to get a tech product from an idea in someone’s head to something real that people are using.
If you’d like to know more, or have a free chat with us about your ideas, have a look at our website: https://www.fishpercolator.co.uk/
¹ OK, seventeen men. Our industry is not without its serious problems.