Sunday, September 03, 2006

Book Review: Managing Agile Projects

Managing Agile Projects by Sanjiv Augustine.  Prentice Hall PTR, 2006, ISBN 0131240714.

This is a solid book, but suffers from a very slow start. The first quarter of the book seems filled with too much mystical hand waving and too many buzzwords. The entire opening quarter of the book is stuffed with referenecs to "chordic edges" and "holographic formal structures." A few of the buzzwords get defined and used later on, but the overabundance of them was like fingers on a chalkboard. It got so bad that I almost put the book down and walked away from it.

There are also a few irritants such as charts with poor explanations, or the assertion that test-driven development is an approach "specific to XP." Much of the book is from a pure XP approach, but that's not surprising because the author's been in a full XP environment for five years.  That part wasn't bothersome.

Things pick up greatly after chapter 3, however. The remainder of the book is solid, very useful, and full of great information for building and maintaining a solid development team. There's a lot of great focus on bringing value to the customer, and there are practical examples for all of the various aspects of running an agile project.

I liked the author's breakdown of categories into leadership and management roles.  The two aren't the same, and I get irritated with books which treat them as such.  There's also a good bit of focus on what's necessary to help keep teams and the individuals making up those teams in good working order.

You'll find handy tables and explanations detailing estimation, task backlogs and job jars, and several great discussions on how to keep communication flowing with your customer. The sections on clearly establishing service criteria at the start of the project, and the clever use of sliders to help define success critieria, were nicely done.

Overall it's a very good book. The opening three or four chapters drag down what's otherwise a solid addition to my bookshelf. I'll get a good amount of use out of the book as a reference for future projects.

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