Part 3: AVA Tech and the evolution of Agile software development
In parts 1 and 2 of our series Agile software development, we ran briefly through the history of Agile software development from its genesis about a quarter-century ago to a present in which pandemic practices have mushroomed the popularity (even necessity) of Agile systems in numerous industries.
AVA Technology LLC is now in its 10th year of business, with an operation that has created Agile software systems development since incorporation in 2013 – and 10 years, as founder Bruce Jeong Lee said in our Q&A session transcribed below, is quite a while indeed in the software world.
Below, Bruce answers a few questions on the evolution of Agile software development, trends in the industry and the Agile methodology/philosophy, ahd importance of Agile in the military sector.
AVA Technology LLC was founded in 2013. What are the differences in Agile software development then versus now?
When I first started the Agile movement had just begun. and so people were just starting to get the idea of what Agile was. We have been operating without the word “agile,” but as it became more defined, we realized we were essentially an Agile shop – we just didn’t know it.
And then once it became a little bit more formalized, the phrase “Agile development” became almost obsolete in that once it becomes rigid, then you have all these roles. So even a shop of five people would have all these roles and titles lie scrmasters and all that kind of stuff, which to me, slows down the process. Sometimes when the rigidity of these roles are defined and have these boundaries to them, it’s the opposite of Agile.
In a way, some Agile software development has contradicted itself by becoming standardized.
When first on the market, did you meet with any skepticism? Did you have any problems selling your brand and what you do?
Oh, very much so. Especially behind the firewall in a military environment, design is not stressed at all; they lack designers, creativity and that kind of stuff. And now I feel like they see some of the benefits, but they still are kind of behind the curve because Agile processes are almost considered a luxury item.
But I feel they’re starting to turn the curve on creativity: They know they need designers now. What AVA Tech has been successful at is implementing that without explicit permission and all of our development is based on design and interface without it being formalized. But that has been our requirement from day one.
The most recent catchphrase in the industry is DevOps. What’s your take on DevOps?
You know, it’s one of these things that is a catchphrase for an entire range of an industry. Developmental Operations is an Agile style, but I think the term is becoming a bit amorphous, changing before our eyes. And so, it means different things to different people.
As an Agile software developer, how does AVA Tech measure success?
For me, it’s end-user use and adoption. There may be a lack of marketing or lack of visibility or all that, but in the end, if the tool is needed and it is easy to use, then people will use it. There is no shortage of solutions out there; the successful one gets used.
Of course we have our own scale of success when it comes to design, time management and the rest, but really the the overarching criterion for success is the adoption and use of our solutions.
Why it so important for military institutions to take up the Agile philosophy?
I always tell the story of how the IRS spent over $1 billion* to develop this all-encompassing tool that would structurally change the way that they do business.
They’re looking for this perfect solution, they spent 10 years and $1 billion and, when it was delivered, it was completely obsolete because the programming languages had changed, the systems had changed, the databases had changed. Everything changed from 10 years past. Ten years in computer years is like dog years: It’s like 70 years!
That should have taught the government that you never get into a situation in which you’re expecting a perfect solution in software development, because there’s no such thing. If someone says that they have the perfect solution, then they’re lying to you.
The one thing that we know at AVA Tech as subject matter experts and knowing our space and our domain very well is that the software environment changes constantly. And if you don’t build that reality in, if you think that the perfect solution today will be the perfect solution next week, next month and a year from now, then you have the wrong mentality.
Agile software is a continual living product/app which continues to evolve as the needs of the organization evolve. If the client does not have that mindset, then there could be problems because really that is what agile is: the continual evolution of a tool as needed.
*In fact, Bruce is even understating the fact here: IRS expenditures on such software infrastructure modernization efforts since 1982 have totaled at least $6.6 billion on systems which produced essentially zero positive results.