GUEST POST: Just ahead of the inaugural Agile Africa conference, Prof Barry Dwolatzky, director, Joburg Centre Software Engineering (JCSE) shares the journey of Agile and why South Africa needs to pay more attention to understanding and implementing it correctly.

Since the first commercial computers appeared in the 1950’s, delivering high quality software on time and within budget has been a major challenge. As a result, the discipline of software engineering was developed in the late 1960’s as a response to this challenge. Two decades later, during the 80’s and 90’s, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh pioneered the concept of process-driven software development under the leadership of Watts Humphrey.

Prof Barry Dwolatzky, director, Joburg Centre Software Engineering
Prof Barry Dwolatzky, director, Joburg Centre Software Engineering

In February 2001, unhappy with the approach taken by the SEI, a group of prominent software engineers issued a document called the Agile Manifesto. In it they expressed the view that software development had become too bureaucratic, process heavy and unresponsive to the needs of both customers and developers. It was a clear reaction to the top-down managerial approach championed at that time by the SEI and others.

The Manifesto outlines how Agile development aims to create self-directed teams of developers able to respond quickly to changing customer requirements. Its goal is to reduce the power and influence of the project manager and strengthen the control influenced by individual developers.

Since 2001 a number of Agile methodologies have been advocated, including Scrum and EXtreme Programming (XP). Both of these, and other Agile practices and principles, have strongly influenced software development in South Africa. I would argue that while many local developers have paid lip service to Agile development, very few have actually understood it and used it effectively.

For this reason Agile Africa will benefit the local software development community by bringing some of the world’s top experts to the country. These include Martin Fowler, one of the signatories of the Agile Manifesto, and Ivar Jacobson, who leads current efforts to re-found the discipline of Software Engineering. They will be joined by an impressive line-up of local, African and international Agile practitioners.

Visit www.agileafrica.jcse.org.za to view the line up and book your seat.

Prof Barry Dwolatzky is director of the Joburg Centre Software Engineering (JCSE) and also heads up the Tech in Braam initiative. His vision of bringing together a world-beating tech cluster in Braamfontein has led to development on the Tshimologong Precint and a lot of optimism for the city’s future.