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Jack Woehr

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Agile Business Model

March 30, 2009

Andy Singleton is the CEO of Assembla Online and CTO of Assembla Consulting which form together an interesting business model based on Agile. We crossed swords over methodology today by phone.

Assembla Consulting is a distributed consulting and custom programming team, sometimes called in to sub-contract a component, sometimes called to the rescue when some in-house team has been going nowhere for a while.

Assembla Online is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor. They provide the workspaces and tools on which you hang your Agile project. Here's a recommended open source project configuration .

Anyone who hasn't read Jocelyn Paine's anecdote The Consultant should follow the link and read it now because Sir Harold's response which forms the punchline reflects the attitude which shapes my own narrow view of this or that programming methodology craze. Which you already knew if you read my blog regularly :)

However, I find Assembla's total-immersion use of Agile as an all-embracing customer relation metaphor and its total integration in their business presentation quite interesting.

For some time my observation has been that it is not the tools or the methodology that cause project failures: more often it is classic bad business management, a failure to match goals with means and an inability to stay focussed on goals which is endemic in our industry.

But I am a cynic, and Andy is an optimist. I do suppose that if you can habituate the customer to the steady release cycle of Agile it has a soothing effect and the customer begins to go with the flow. And if you can wave the tools and make appear the indicators which reveal if you are in scope, it's an impressive and confidence building bit of wizardry.

In any case, the Assembla assemblage, Online + Consulting, seems to leverage the factor I blogged about in "Opportunity Knocks for Tech Gurus ", the cost of software development vs. the ability of a small startup to build and maintain a full development team plus infrastructure.

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