Documentation-Feature-Image-182x182Documentation is needed in the real world, even an Agile one!

Yet there are many rumbles of unhappiness when the words “Agile” and “Documentation” are placed within the same sentence.

Then throw in the word “Regulation” and “Governance” and we have a real hot-bed of endless discussion and opinion.

Yet why? We can only understand this when we consider these four points:

1) The current perception of documentation in Agile teams...

The Agile manifesto states that Agile practitioners:

“Prefer working software over comprehensive documentation”

Sadly however, many people working with Agile methods use it as an excuse to produce NO documentation. Software engineers are the only ones that benefit from this stance. Sadly it is only a short term benefit.

Adding to this is the issue that Scrum talks about “a Product”. This in turn, makes experienced Project Managers even more suspicious – they understand “the Product” to be software only. This all results in the following understanding:

Agile = Scrum = No Documentation

This clearly cannot be the case but it is the perception and perception is 9/10ths of the law.

2) The need for documentation in regulated environments...

The two most highly regulated environments are banking and pharmaceuticals.

  1. Since 2008 banks have been inundated with new regulations. The intention is to prevent a future rogue trader or another Bernie Madoff. At a higher level, it is also present to prevent the collapse of banking, which would have a dramatic affect on security and world society.
  2. With regards to Pharmaceuticals, the consequences are far simpler: If a new drug or medical device does not follow the specified regulations, someone could quite simply die.

Thus these businesses need to prove that they are complying with regulations, which themselves evolve, otherwise they may be closed down. Period.

3) The need for governance in large organizations...

A lady at a large Insurance company recently explained:

“80% of value delivered by projects globally are delivered by projects with budgets of 15m CHF or more, over 2-3 years. So we definitely need governance… [to be continued]”

The above statement quite clearly illustrates that projects need to be demonstrating that they are in control and to do this they need to have the well-established project management practices that the experienced Project Managers and senior executives are familiar with and trust. This is documentation of the status of the project including risk, financial, scope change, ROI realisation etc.

In addition, large organizations should have their projects audited by internal audit departments or even more challenging, by external auditors from companies such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers or KPMG. In both cases they will need to prove that they have their projects under control. This may come down to low-level discussions such as showing evidence of successful testing and password compliance.

Internal I.T. departments and software companies may have another dimension to consider. If they want to maintain their ISO 9001 or CMMI level 5 compliance, they too will have to produce evidence that they are fulfilling the requirements.

Finally, a legal requirement may also need to be fulfilled, for example to protect the development of patents.

4) The need for large organisations to be Agile...

The same lady completed the above quote with the following:

 “…yet we also need to be far more Agile because the business is changing faster than ever”.

She clearly indicates that the business is the driver for being Agile, not I.T. and remember, regulations are changing as well so projects need to be able to adapt as and when needed. This itself is a perfect reason for adopting Agile techniques.

 How do we solve this?

As we can now appreciate, large organisations need to provide documentation to fulfil the needs of:

  • External regulators
  • Legal teams
  • External auditors
  • Process maturity obligations
  • Internal audit reviews
  • Senior executives that want to know the project or portfolio’s monthly status

To illustrate how documentation can be supported by Agile projects, click on this link to see how typical project documents are mapped to DSDM Atern’s project life-cycle. This includes a business plan, user-guides, installation guides, testing strategy, monthly reporting, testing artifacts etc.