The axiom of Agile

I’m putting together an ‘introduction to Agile’ presentation this week. I’ve done them before, but I like going back and writing these things from scratch since it allows me to think about what I’ve learned since the last time.

One thing I’ve added this time around is the first principle from the Agile Manifesto, which states:

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

I’ve read this statement before, and even blogged about the business value slant it has, but I’ve never thought before how much overall it underpins everything I believe as an IT professional. Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really care about test-driven development, stories, refactoring or even continuous integration. They’re just tools I use in order to fulfill the actual goal of delivering value early and often. At the moment they’re the best tools I know of for doing so, which is why I practice them, talk about them and even spend my own time writing open-source software to make some of them easier.

But they’re not the ‘axiom’ of why I do what I do. Getting useful, valuable, software in front of a real user; seeing the smile on their face when they see their professional lives are going to be easier (if that’s the value they gain); and having a conversation about what we can deliver next, and soon, is actually why I do what I do.

When I talked about this statement before, I focussed on the business value phrase, i.e. figuring out what the monetary benefit of a feature is. If you just take the word valuable as meaning ‘something which somebody values’, then this principle can be applied to any prospective customer in the business IT world.