Hotels.com VP: Agile in the enterprise can be like building on quicksand

Agile is hard, distributed agile is incredibly hard, but it can be done says Stuart Silberg explains how he implemented agile development at Hotels.

By Derek du Preez, Computerworld UK |  IT Management, agile development

Agile development methodologies in the enterprise can be like building on quicksand or trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, according to the vice president of technology at popular accommodation website Hotels.com.

Stuart Silberg has been with the company for two years and has successfully transformed its development processes to true agile, where he is expecting to have release cycles as often as twice a week by the new year.

However, he warned that agile isn't right for every project, especially in large enterprises.

"I would throw a word of caution, agile isn't perfect for everything. We once did a big integration project with some back-end systems and quite frankly we shouldn't have done it in an agile manner," Silberg told Computerworld UK.

"It was like building on quicksand, because there were too many things moving."

He explained that because there were two teams making changes and working in an iterative manner, the interface for integration kept changing.

"Where [the back-end team] started was not where they ended up, so we kept trying to connect and it kept changing. We had to go and rework a load of stuff," he said.

He added: "I think for some of the enterprise shops it might not be suitable and you may be somewhat forcing a square peg into a round hole."

Silberg did, however, highlight that enterprises should consider having teams working in agile where it is effective and teams working in a waterfall process, where appropriate. He said: "There is no reason you can't have mixed."

When Silberg joined Hotels.com the company claimed to be working in an agile manner, but releases were taking twelve weeks and then there were further weeks of testing being done at the end of each cycle.

He explained: "I was probably one of the biggest sceptics about agile at first, because most people don't do it very well. At Hotels.com it was much more of a fast waterfall approach and that's where a lot of people run into issues."

"But, to be fair, agile is an evolution, it's not a switch. You can't come in and expect to be running a pure scrum the next day, it's about making tweaks."

He added: "We release every two weeks now, but we are about to go twice a week in the new year. That will save us doing patch releases in between if there are any bugs that need fixing."

Hotels.com has approximately two hundred members of staff using agile methodologies.

Silberg said that it was able to reduce the cycle release time so dramatically because it completely overhauled the architecture to the application.


Originally published on Computerworld UK |  Click here to read the original story.
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