Book Review: Agile Management for Software Engineering – Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results

Author: David J. Anderson

A software product business like any other business exists for  making  profits.
To make profits in a highly competitive and dynamically changing environment it must ensure a transparent and continuous flow of high quality customer -valued features at lesser development cost.
How to achieve such a flow?
As per this book the answer is a) Develop software using Agile methods and b) Transparently manage this development through metrics based on revolutionary manufacturing concepts like Lean, Theory of Constraints (TOC), and Throughput Accounting etc.

The book consists of 33 chapters grouped into three sections.
Section 1 explains the theory and practices of Agile management.
Four basic management roles are defined – development manager, program manager, project manager, and product manager. A set of practices for each of these roles are also described.
This section also discusses Agile Management metrics.
It categorizes these metrics  into two categories – Production Metrics and Financial Metrics.
Production Metrics are – Inventory, Quantity, Lead Time and Production Rate.
Financial Metrics are – Investment, Operating Expense, Throughput, Net Profit, Return on Investment and Average Cost per Function.
Author has described at length how to calculate these metrics in software engineering context and also provides guidelines to track, interpret and report them to the senior management.

In Section 2 the author shows how to relate the Agile methods – FDD, Scrum and XP to the production and financial metrics presented in Section 1.
He demonstrates how to measure these metrics to show assess the business results.
This helps in justifying the Agile methods in terms of value-addition and ROI.

Section 3 explores the applicability of traditional and Agile methods in terms of their appropriateness for different types, sizes, and scales of software projects.

This book is a moderately difficult read for those accustomed to easy conversational style and case study based writings of several Agile authors. It is slightly repetitive and monotonous.
However this is one of the first few books on Agile which goes beyond presenting the anecdotal benefits of Agile and discusses the business metrics which can be used to quantify the ROI.
Hence it will be of great interest to those in senior management positions.
It will also encourage them to avoid local process sub optimization and lead their organizations towards optimizing the system as a whole. Such holistic optimization will yield good business results.
A valuable book for Agile enthusiasts too, since it will equip them with material to present a business case for Agile methods to the senior management.

Book Details: Paperback – 336 pages; Published – 2003; Publisher – Prentice Hall

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3 Responses to Book Review: Agile Management for Software Engineering – Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results

  1. Rajesh Naik says:

    Thanks for the review.

    I was just wondering why Agile is so associated with software development only. The concepts of Agile can be used anywhere.

    So now there is a business opportunity for “Agile in Construction”, “Agile in Retail”, “Agile in Banking”, etc. Just a thought…

  2. Gopinath says:

    Agility is the ability to respond and adapt to the rapidly changing situations and still deliver results. Such rapidly changing situations (requirements for e.g.) are more common in software industry as compared to other industries. Probably that’s why Agile is more associated with software development.
    But as you rightly said concepts of Agile can be used anywhere
    I have come across concepts like “Agile Leadership”, “Agile Manufacturing”, “Agile Hiring” etc.”
    So there is definitely more opportunities for Agile. All it requires is a complex and dynamic problem the solution to which can be delivered incrementally and iteratively.

  3. Agile says:


    This article gives introduction of agile methods.
    I really like this article very much.
    Thanks for an article.

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