Agile Tokyo 2010 Agile Financial Tokyo
I’ve just got back from Tokyo, where I was honoured to be invited to give the keynote at Agile Tokyo 2010. Agile conferences have a short history in Japan – both Agile Tokyo and Agile Japan are only two years old – and there was a real buzz of excitement, with lots of smart people (280 delegates attended) and interesting conversations.
So first of all I’d like to thank Yoshi Nagase and his wonderful team at Technologic Arts for hosting me, Yoko Yoshikawa for taking such good care of me during my time there, Gihyo for organizing the conference and for inviting me, and my fellow presenters for some great discussions.
The most surprising discovery for me was that agile is considered new and somewhat subversive in Japan. Japanese IT companies have been doing waterfall on large projects for a long time now, and it is deeply entrenched.
Indeed, everybody I spoke to confirmed that waterfall worked perfectly well for them as a software development methodology. This was staggering to me, since outside Japan large software projects run with waterfall routinely go over budget and end up with either cuts in scope or poor quality – several recent reports, such as this one, put IT project failure rates in the range of 60-70%.
This appears not to be the case in Japan – it is perhaps the only country that could make waterfall work reliably and repeatably. As my host, Yoshi Nagase, commented, this is deeply ironic in a country that created Toyota and lean manufacturing.
However there is certainly an interest in agile now. Several large systems integrators have started running small agile pilot projects, and apparently the results have been successful. Why the sudden interest in agile if waterfall can deliver high quality software on time and on budget? The answer is easily extrapolated from this example of a project plan I saw at one of the companies I visited – the plan has been changed somewhat to protect the guilty, but not in any essential details – it is a pretty standard plan following the V-model.
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