Book Review: Practices of an Agile Developer

Authors: Venkat Subramaniam & Andy Hunt

In this book the authors present 45 practices which a software developer need to follow to derive maximum benefit out of the Agile way of working.
After an introductory first chapter – Agile Software Development, which deals with the spirit and the definition of agility, the authors discuss these practices in the next seven chapters as follows.

Chapter 2: Beginning Agility – The  agile mind-set and good personal-practices which serve as a foundation for rest of the book.
Chapter 3: Feeding Agility – Ongoing background practices that aren’t part of development itself but are vitally important to the health of the team.
Chapter 4: Delivering What Users Want – Practices and techniques to keep the users involved, learn from their experience with the system, and keep the project
aligned with their real needs.
Chapter 5: Agile Feedback – Practices to get the best feedback which comes from the code itself and to get a better handle on the team’s progress and performance.
Chapter 6: Agile Coding – Some practical, proven techniques to keep code clean and
malleable and prevent it from growing into a monster.
Chapter 7: Agile Debugging – How to make the debugging process  more effective and save time on the project.
Chapter 8: Agile Collaboration – Effective practices  to help jell a team together, as well as other practices that help the team function on a day-to-day basis and grow into the future.

All the practices in the above chapters are systematically dealt with as follows.

The introduction to each practice starts with excuses/temptations for either not following or badly/carelessly following the practice. These are presented as if coming from the Devil’s mouth.  These are based on the seemingly legitimate lines of thought that the authors have heard, seen in practice, or secretly thought themselves. These are the costly shortcuts generally tried by developers with all good intentions for saving time on the project.
After a short and crisp discussion (1 or 2 pages)  of the practice, the authors dispense a key advice which they think needs to be followed. This is presented as if coming from the developer’s guardian angel.
The authors then proceed to describe what it feel like in being in a team which follows the practice. The discussion on the practice concludes with tips on how to pragmatically strike a balance by avoiding going overboard by trying to rigidly stick to the practice come what may.

The last chapter- Moving to Agility, provides  roadmaps to the Manager and the Programmer for introducing and institutionalizing the practices discussed in the book.

The book is written in a very elegant, reader friendly manner, peppered with case studies drawn from authors’  experience and garnished with ample doses of humor.

An indispensable book for every developer starting on their agile journey and a sanity check for everyone who claims to be Agile !

Book Details: Published:2006; Publisher: The Pragmatic Bookshelf ;Paperback: 200 pages.

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