Agile Stuff That Matters (STM)

Hi guys, what’s up. You’ve been really great. And hey, I don’t mean that to mean nothing at all. You’ve been really great coping with all this Agile KoolAid: so let’s hit it.

Agile, that cunning plan to avoid everything we always hated about IT projects and do the bits we always liked, while making out that we are better than those old grey-beards who thought they owned all our stuff. And sure, that’s great, but it’s time – huh, time for what? Maybe, like, let me explain ….

So we all heard that Cheap – Fast – Good thing forever ago, so I won’t bore you again. Easy, because there are only two choices in the Agile world anyway. You knew that – Agile is always fast. That’s bulletproof, a total certainty. Minimum viable product, out the door to customers in minimum possible time. That’s fast, right? So, fast is always a given. No struggle there. It’s really a contest between Mr. Cheap and Ms. Good. Mr. Cheap and Nasty versus Ms. Good as Gold. And here’s where things set seriously interesting.

No way are your customers going to go for Mr. Cheap and Nasty. It’s just not going to happen. Your guys know rubbish when they see it, and they are going to rip you for it. Nobody does this job to get ripped and that’s not an option. So, Ms. Good as Gold has to be your game plan. Check the options – get my meaning? This was never going to be cheap.

Cheap Fast Good

Now your Digital Transformation Office (that’s a DTO) thinks Agile is really cool too. It’s sort of beards, no socks, kind of fashionably dishevelled, hip labels, kind of fixed gear cycle territory. They get it. Just say things at STM meetings like, “No problems, we’re Agile” for a sure reaction. People will look at you like you are a DTO Dude too. Plus, that’s the story they copied from the Government Digital Service (that a GDS) in the UK. That’s where we get all “our” great ideas now – by copying. And the GDS has created a massive, huge, enormous lie. Here’s the lie –

Good as GoldAgile is Fast (a given). Agile is Good (it has to be) – and Agile is Cheap. It’s so cheap that a man named Mike who used to run the GDS until last September is all over the media saying stuff like “Together…. across government, we delivered GOV.UK, saved billions for the taxpayer, won the Design of the Year Award and – most importantly – delivered substantially improved services for millions of people.” (Here’s the entire article on The Register). No questions about Good in there – Mike has it winning awards and pleasing everyone. And no question about Fast either. Our Paul is dead sure that STM will go out the door in a blinding flash. The really big deal lie is CHEAP.

Mike sold the whole GDS Agile KoolAid thing to the UK government in 2010 on the argument that loads of money would be saved for sure. Then he got the Cheap – Fast – Good equation all mixed up, promised everything to everyone and now The Register has this to say about the result:

The claims that GDS saved the government billions through “digital transformation” have been revealed to be extremely misleading.

In fact just £61m has been saved through the creation of digital services, due to consolidating websites on

Ms Good as Gold failed to make her appearance. In fact Mr. Cheap and Nasty ended up playing a leading role, so check out the details of what really went down with GOV.UK, because your DTO is jetting down the road to GOV.AU in only 8 weeks from now. That’s fast, right? We all agreed on fast. It was Cheap that was the problem. Then Mike left.

And now you have it – at your next STM meeting stay well away from Mr. Cheap. It’s never going to be cheap.


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