Jef Claes

On software and life

10 Jun 2012

Book review: The Art of Agile Development

While I have - obviously - read the Agile Manifesto before, and regularly click through to articles on agile, I had never read an extensive work on it. Browsing for a good book, I was advised by a peer to get The Art of Agile Development.

I wholeheartedly believe in the Agile Manifesto, but somewhere along the way Agile - with a capital A - got somewhat of a bad rep. The authors of this book, James Shore and Shane Warden, already predicted this five years ago. Throughout the book, I never had the feeling they were connected to the Agile mob, but just genuinely care about working software.

I fully expect the big consulting companies to start offering Certified Agile Processes and Certified Agile Consultants - for astronomical fees, of course - any day now. Please don’t get sucked into that mess.

The book consists of three parts: getting started, practicing XP and mastering agility. Notice the title of the second part, this is a book on agile development using the Extreme Programming methodology. This should be mentioned in the title.

The second part is also the dominant chunk of the book - 271 pages to be precise -, in which 37 agile development practices are covered. These practices are bundled into five categories: thinking, collaborating, releasing, planning and developing. Each practice follows the same recipe: breakdown, questions, results, contraindications, alternatives and further reading. These recipes go into detail, making this book suitable as a reference. As a result, it often also reads as reference material; I found it hard at times to stay attentive. The material is a bit tedious, sometimes a bit repetitive, and while some of the real world experiences are very interesting, the made up stories often read as a children’s book. Nonetheless, this doesn’t make the information in this book any less valuable. The authors have lived it through and through, and possess a very healthy and pragmatic vision on agile software¬†development.

Ultimately what matters is success, however you define it. The practices, principles, and values are merely guides along the way.  Start by following the practices rigorously. Learn what the the principles mean. Break the rules, experiment, see what works, and learn some more. Share your insights and passion, and learn even more.

I rate this book 4/5. You can get it on Amazon.