In a recent post, Tim Ottinger & Jeff Langr gets to the inevitable snap-back point for all agilistas; “KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE TOOLS!” (I’m paraphrasing).
I understand the sentiment, but it’s not that simple.
In cases such as ours, we have heavy regulation, we have auditors, we have distributed employees all over the world. Heck, it’s hard to find a US-based team that isn’t distributed. I work from home myself, as do something like 18,000 of my co-workers.
We need tools. Not one, but several to accommodate different technology platforms. We need to have a centralized repository of stories and reports, like burn charts, velocity reports, test coverage, etc. We need all those IDEs and refactoring add-ins and Group Chat clients and virtual pairing stations. All that stuff.
I get the argument from some of the agile practitioners in our organization, “Look, open source projects have governance and distributed team members and all they use is e-mail and maybe Excel.”
Yes they do.
The key differentiator is that an open source team (even a foundation) is governing only one product, or one suite of products, not thousands or tens of thousands of applications. Did I mention we have something like 100,000 technology staff? I’m guessing we have 20-30 thousand developers. Manage a portfolio like that with e-mail and Excel.
There is no way that we can afford to send auditors to each team room wherever it might be; it’s just not realistic. If we’re lucky (and sometimes, we are) we can get the whole project team together for initial story workshops and release planning. The rest of the time it’s conference calls and LiveMeeting.
So, yeah, if you are working in a small company with a small team, or even a large company with a small suite of custom applications and a few teams of developers, use a whiteboard and a bunch of index cards. It’s way more fun; I’d do it again in a second..
Reality for me and my co-workers is that we don’t have the luxury of that style of intimacy.
It’s just not that simple..