In this article, I will offer you a unique look at the rise of agile practices. You will see how core agile values of instant feedback and communication manifest themselves in different forms throughout history. You will see how Runtime Intelligence embodies the essence of agile software development, and how it helps software succeed.
The Age of Antiquity
Athens and Jerusalem! The rivalry between them resulted in major battles throughout history and spilled over to our times.
The book of Talmud, a magnificent compilation of biblical commentary and legal analysis, was put to writing in the ancient Babylonian academies of Sura and Pumbedita. Similar to Extreme Programmers of today, scholars worked in pairs, pouring over and discussing the meaning of incredibly difficult texts. To the Sages, the Text was the embodiment of the Master of the Universe Himself. It communicated to them in a very real and tangible way. Greek logic was an extremely useful tool, but not a solution to all of the world’s problems. In the dusty halls of ancient academies, the Sages perfected the art of close reading, reasoning by analogy, and pattern recognition.
The Greeks, on the other hand, perfected the art of logic, philosophy, and mathematics. The Universe could be a living organism to them, but it did not interfere with the lives of mere mortals. In the Greek mindset, the Universe did not actively communicate with us. The notions of theory, formalism, and proof - all made their way into our worldview through the Greeks.
The Age of Reason
Similar to the Greeks before them, the great men of the Enlightenment saw the world as a big mechanical device. The Universe functioned like a big clock, and human beings were like specks of dust in this gigantic mechanism. The world abided by a strict set of mathematical rules, and the future could be predicted if only all the variables were known.
The Age of Reason exerted its influence on software engineering as well. The field of program verification was consistent with its worldview. Programs were seen as mathematical structures whose correctness could be proven by analytical means without ever executing them. Program verification made great contributions to computer science, but it never replaced the empirical and intuitive approaches to software engineering.
The Age of Modernity
Our age witnessed the birth of quantum, chaos, and the Big Bang theories. The Universe is no longer a mechanical clock it used to be. All of a sudden, a human being becomes an active participant once again.
In modern software development, we see a shift from formal and theoretical approaches to people-oriented ones. Active participation and communication start running like golden threads through agile practices of today.
In the art of unit testing, for example, unit tests collaborate with you on several different levels. They communicate the intentions of your programs and allow you to concentrate on the implementation details later. Unit tests let you break the dependencies in your code and make your programs decoupled and cohesive. They provide you with an instant feedback about the overall health of your system. You can execute thousands of them and get a result within seconds or minutes. Unit tests give you the confidence you need when you try to adapt to changing requirements of the outside world.
In the age of modernity, your applications become active participants and communicators too. Enter Runtime Intelligence.
Runtime Intelligence and Agility
In the world of Runtime Intelligence, there are no theories to predict which features your customers will like. There are no formal proofs about your software usage. There are no surveys to figure out how your applications are used.
Similar to unit tests of the art of unit testing, your applications themselves communicate with you. Based on their instant feedback, you can quickly make important business decisions. You can see which features provide the most value for the money you spend, which features your customers rely on the most, and which features need further development. You can adapt much faster to the rapidly changing world around you. This is the essence of being agile.
Great ideas do not exist in an intellectual vacuum. They are often a reflection of their times. If we want our software to succeed, we must pay close attention to the lessons of history. As we embark on a journey back to the future, one thing is certain. Our past is behind us. Our future is still in our hands.