New to agile? Remember the power of automation

digital-clock-400x400As this blog entry is published I am teaching an agile/scrum course to a client in Flanders, New Jersey.  You might want to ask “Bob, how can you do that?  Isn’t the client upset when you blogwhile they are paying for your time?”  Certainly they would be upset and they would be well within their rights to be upset about it!  However, I’m not BLOGGING during their time, the blog is simply taking a pre-scheduled action.  I actually wrote the blog entry while watching the 3rd quarter of the Steelers vs. Ravens football (American style) game on Sunday night.  Fortunately, WordPress has a way to “schedule” a blog entry for later publication.  In other words I am using a simple scheduler to automate a task to occur at a specific future time.  I’m mentioning all of this because automation is one of the areas where I see many agile teams fail.

Before talking about agile teams let me give another image of automation which sticks with me.  My wife uses the phrase “keeping the slaves working” when she talks about using our dishwasher, washer and dryer.  What she means is external devices are doing the work of humans and saving human time – HER time in many cases!

Agile teams need to start thinking of their computers, servers and other devices as slaves to the team.  The slaves can work 24/7 while the team cannot.  If a computer can do the work much faster or the computer can do it while humans aren’t available doesn’t it make sense to use that capability?  There are some testing big-wigs who say you can’t automate everything.  I agree with that, but where I differ with them is on how much can or should be automated.  I say automate as much as possible, but do it in a maintainable and sustainable way.  Others may disagree.  Their disagreement doesn’t mean I’m wrong 🙂

In my experience I have seen three main reasons for teams not using automation (in testing, continuous integration or build/deploy):

  1. They simply do not know it is possible.
  2. They assume the learning curve is too long for a reasonable ROI.
  3. Management has said it costs too much money for a reasonable ROI.

Let me debunk all of these fairly quickly.  The first one is no longer an issue because every reader is going to forward this blog entry to their friends who will all forward to their friends, etc. and within a few days the entire world will know automation is possible!  The second may have been a factor in the past, but with contemporary tools like Cucumber, Selenium and FitNesse the learning curve is MUCH lower than ever before.  Teams can become reasonably proficient with many tools with just a few days of training and coaching from a qualified individual.  Because it only takes a few days the last issue is debunked as well because the cost for a few days of time is negligible in the big picture when compared to the savings in productivity.

Look into automation.  Email me and ask about how current clients are being successful with very little time and dollars invested.  Keep the slaves working while you aren’t at the office and get a better balance between work and home life!

Until next time I’ll be Making Agile a Reality® for my clients by helping them learn how to get maximum leverage from their use of automation.

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