Why AGILE fails

Agile makes sense. In a demanding business scene Agile aims to deliver and deploy faster and follow a cycle of further drops to enhance the customer experience. Yet in big organisations it is either unpopular among the technical cast or fails quite often.


Let us break it down to three main headings :-

– Scoping Strategy
– Deployment Strategy
– Organisation – Culture and Governance

The first two are pretty self-explanatory items really.


Agile is more than a principle or methodology it’s a style, with a core of a belief and dressing of a philosophy. One just cannot do agile for a convenient task and follow a different style for the rest. You need to apply the philosophy to the entire domain. It’s a paradigm shift. An agile train of thought has to be applied right from scoping the project through to its deployment. The business sponsor or the writer of the mandate has to understand what agile is and how it works. Agility of course comes with a price and the price here is that the typical lifecycle of deployment is short. The scope will have to be decided accordingly – so that it can be packaged in smaller drops. The benefits of such agile cycles have been broadly discussed everywhere; it reduces the risk of wasting a lot of money for nothing for long – and that alone should be the most compelling one for the sponsor. However this is not an easy task; with years of waterfall practice it is easy to see why people struggle to think in agile way. Probably an example can help explain.

Waterfall thinking: We are a bank. We need a new current account. Our scope includes launching the account, training the customer facing staff with new account opening process, and offering all types of banking features including mobile and online banking for the account when it’s launched.


Agile thinking: We are a bank. We need a new current account. To achieve that, we need a new account opening function and train staff in the process, integrate it with current Standing Order, Direct Debit and other payments engine, launch its online portal, develop its mobile content and mobile banking platform or integrate with existing one.


We will like to point out that both have exact same scope of launching a new current account product for a bank. However with agile approach, all its features won’t be available on day one. The challenge here is on the analysts and SMEs to ensure that the basic features that an account must have to be ready for launch are included in the first drop, and subsequent features are added as future drops. It is indeed possible for different organisations to have different take on what constitutes to be the most basic features for the account type, for example, a bank that only offers portal or digital banking will need the mobile/digital aspect as a requirement for drop one whereas a more traditional bank will probably keep it for second or third drop. However by the same token, a bank offering only online products and services is expected to already have a robust online channel thereby making it easier to integrate the new product with it.


So that covers the first two headings for us – smaller drops to scope leading successfully to smaller drops to deploy.


The fundamental reason of all failures for agile is an organisation’s lack of appetite to change the traditional governance protocols which is heavily embedded into its culture and how it operates its business. Let’s look at an example.


In our example bank, the project lifecycle necessarily has three distinct steps – all mandated – namely:
– Define  (write scope, analyse it and design a solution)
– Develop (code it and test it)
– Deploy (implement it and provide warranty).


This is all fine for agile too, however in the said bank, one can only move to Develop stage when Define is signed off and subsequently Deploy when Development is completed and signed off. Deployment is heavily change controlled meaning that for every deployment one needs a change record and undergoes a rigorous and painful change management process which in itself takes weeks to prepare for and pass through the gruel of change boards. As agile process will consider several drops, multiply this process by the number of drops and one can quickly see it won’t work.


Is there a solution? One will argue that an organisation should be open to both waterfall and agile ways of working because for some projects agile may not really be the answer. How does the governance protocol can support both?


First thing to understand here is that there is no direct conflict between waterfall and agile except for the size of the delivery. Agile too follows scoping, designing, developing and deploying lifecycles albeit at a much faster pace. The good news for organisations therefore is that they don’t have to drastically change their protocols for agile. They can keep the core protocols intact and just alter them to a “light mode” for projects that are marked agile. It needs the recognition that some deliverables, e.g., application design, will undergo changes every sprint, so the final version will not be released for sign off until the final sprint is over. It also needs a lighter change control, or allow a change record to stay open for a longer window. It can allow self-certification by a delivery manager on some of the compliance elements.


All of this of course adds certain risks to the protocols and change governance, there will be competing forces from external policies such as Sarbanes Oxley, so it is fair to comment that the agile way of doing things needs cognisance from all quarters, internal and external, and one can only hope that the agile way of working will evolve for the better in coming months and years so agile won’t have to fail for no fault of it.


If you will like to discuss more about how A-Cubed Project Consultancy team can help you achieve Agile Management in your organisation please contact us.

New Website Launched!

Finally the new website was launched over the weekend. Well done to the team for making time from other commercial projects/commitments to work on this! This is particularly difficult for a small team/company like ours where we target to maintain zero-bench meaning all our colleagues are working on customers’ projects all the time!

So what’s new with the website?

  • Fresh look
  • HTML5
  • No Flash (Mac friendly)
  • Responsive Web Design
  • Secure codebase/database
  • Easy navigation.

We expect to find some slight glitches as we go along and will continue to fix them. If you indeed come across any issue do let us know via the contact us page on main website. Or any other feedback for that matter.

We do hope to roll out a few new online services in coming months particularly aiming at customers who are trying to keep a watchful eye on their IT budgets so will mean simple and targeted online services at a lower cost. Watch this space!


SPAM Domain Registration emails – BEWARE!

We received the following email today at our corporate mailbox. For anyone else that receives a similar email please do not panic and take no notice of this and add the sender to your blocked list.

(Letter to Head of Brand Business or CEO, thanks)

Dear Sir or Madam,

This is a formal email. We are the department of Asian Domain Registration Service in China. Here I have something to confirm with you. We formally received an application on January 21, 2013 that a company claimed OLDL INT’L Co. were applying to register “acubesoftware” as their Brand name and some acubesoftware Asian countries top-level domain names through our firm.

Now we are handling this registration, and after our initial checking, we found the name were similar to your company’s, so we need to check with you whether your company has authorized that company to register these names. If you authorized this, we would finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize, please let us know within 7 workdays, so that we could handle this issue better. After the deadline we will unconditionally finish the registration for OLDL INT’L Co.. Looking forward to your prompt reply.

Best Regards,

Steve Wu

Tel: (+86) 551-65223114 || Fax: (+86) 551-65223113
Address:No.660 MeiLing Big Road, Hefei, Anhui, China

[Solved] Thunderbird cannot access GMAIL account

We just had a customer complaining about his thunderbird application not being able to connect to his gmail account that he had for ages without any issue!

Upon investigation we found that he had his new Android tablet set up with the same gmail account recently. Google always looks out for any hacking activity so if there are multiple clients (thunderbird and Android’s email) trying to access the same Google account it is quite possible that Google decides to block one/some of them or all.

This is how you enable the account again in the client (thunderbird in this case).

Step 1. Switch off Thunderbird in your PC/laptop if it’s still running.

Step 2. Now open your GMAIL through browser by visting www.gmail.com

Step 3. On top right you will see the Settings icon (looks like a gearbox in the new Google set-up) – click on Settings from drop down.

Step 4. Click on the tab Forwarding and POP/IMAP.

Step 5. Disable POP or IMAP whichever is giving you the hassle.

Step 6. Now visit this link from Google and follow through the instructions.

Step 7. Enable POP/IMAP again (same as Steps 3, 4 above) from GMAIL interface.

Step 8. Restart thunderbird. It should work now.

Hope this helps everyone who faces similar problem in future!

SEO quick-fix, the DIY style: Part-2

Hoping that the part-1 of this series has made some sense about what SEO is all about, let’s move on to more granularity now.

We will cover the major aspects of SEO under three broad categories: Content. Code. Links. It will be important here to note that all three of these areas are equally important. One can’t just get away with the best of content but poor code or no links!


  • Find out what is key for you, or key “message” that you want to send out through your website. Borrowing the same example we had in part-1, if you are selling fishing rod, your keyword may become “fishing rod” too. If you want to stress on your own brand along with it and if the name of the brand is “magic anglers” then you can as well consider “magic anglers fishing rod” as your keyword. if it’s made up of a new alloy called “anglerate” which light yet heavy-duty, then yes, by all means, they can get included in the message!
  • In SEO terminology, we call these tags or meta-tags. So when you ask your coder to place meta tags for your website, you include words such as anglerate, light, heavy-duty, fishing rod, magic anglers. You can change their order too depending on which one you want to be more popular.
  • Contrary to what many SEO experts will have you believe, there is no sure-success magic number for keyword density. That is, by just having these words repeated meaninglessly throughout the content of the website doesn’t improve your SEO ranking and in fact can actually harm it. Make it natural. When we review any copywrite, we tend to see if it makes sense and if it flows naturally. If you use 3 paragraphs every page of your website, having them mentioned 4-6 times can be just good enough.
  • Search engines have shown evidence that if one or two main keywords or meta tags appear in the title as early in it as possible, it improves the SEO performance for the site. There is no sure rule of how many words or characters you can/should use in the title but we advise 70-80 characters or 7 to 8 words. Again, try natural. if you sell anglerate magic anglers fishing rods, we will title the website as “Buy magic anglers fishing rods made by light angelrate”. Someone once said: think of a title as a human will read it, not a searchbot!
  • Often overlooked, we have found out that adding a meta description actually improves your site’s SEO performance too. Just write out a 3-sentence gist/description of your website and hand it over to your coder for inclusion as meta description in the HTML. A typical example can be this: that is made up of world-class alloy anglerate that is only made for fishing rods to give the lightness of aluminium yet the strength of steel, your search is just over. Buy anglers magic fishing rods with 100% money back guarantee if it doesn’t satisfy you. We are based out of the lovely Lake District in England and all payments in the website are securely processed by HSBC Bank. You can call our friendly sales staff on 0870 543 9876.” /> . Keep it natural and make it in a way a human can read it. 
  • Finally, when you write the copy, please make sure you have proper headings for your paragraphs (more on this when we cover code), such as, Fishing Rods, Why Anglerate, Buy Safe, and so on. Typically inclusion of a meta in heading has shown to help. Please run it through a spell-check before you publish your content. Mis-spelled or ill-constructed copy will not rank well.


[We appreciate that this section can cause confusion for someone who is not exposed to HTML coding so you can simply discuss the points with your site’s developer(s).  Goes without saying that when we develop your websites these things and more are given due attention for your sites to have a better ranking.]

  • You may want the search engines to restrict some pages from indexing or stop indexing links emanating from your pages. Robots.txt  is a file that is used to achieve all this, it’s placed at the web root. You can find more explanation here.
  • Check with your server admin or the coder to see that both www and non-www URLs are pointing to same pages. That is, www.your-domain.com/try-me.htm and your-domain.com/try-me.htm must terminate on the same page!
  • Take a look at how the URLs are on this website. The page where blogged about “Why Web, Then?” is http://a-cubed.co.uk/2011/05/why-web-then/. In SEO world it’s called SEO friendly URLs. Even if you have code-related suffixes you can keep the URLs more meaningful. E.g., your-domain.com/why-use-anglerate-rod.php rather than your-domain.com/prod1.php – makes sense?
  • There is a very powerful HTML tag or attribute called ALT. It is an alternative description for something that the searchbot cannot see/view/read. For example, if you have an image, if you put an ALT for it too, the bot knows what it is for! Not to confuse with the TITLE tag though which should really be used when the image can open on a new window/page.
  • In real life we italicise a word or put it in bold font to catch user’s attention. In the same way if we italicise and bold the keywords through out your content some suggest that searchbots attend to them quicker than usual. Won’t harm anyway even if they don’t at least you know it will catch users’ attention!
  • We talked about headings in the previous section. Your developer should  use at least one H1 tag (heading) in the content. It’s easy for your readers to understand what a paragraph is going to focus on, same way for the searchbots as it tells them what the content is going to describe. Relevance is the key though, no point calling a heading Farmed Salmon when you are actually talking about a fishing rod.
  • XML sitemap has been found to be of excellent value for searchbots to take a glimpse of what is there in your website. Think of “table of content” for a large book and how that may help you understand the structuring of the content in the book, you will get the idea!
  • Get the code and CSS validated by W3C.


  • Internal page-linkings, that is, linking own pages can improve your page rank. It’s like telling the searchbots what other things they should go explore in your website!
  • External page linking, done in moderation from internal pages (avoid this from home page!) to sites of similar relevance, can improve your SEO performance. What we advise is not to use same keywords as you use when you link to the external sites.
  • Check your website for broken links. Your page rank can reduce dramatically if searchbots encounter links on your website that don’t exist!  
  • Contrary to popular belief, use absolute URLs in your internal links rather than relative URLs.  
  • Do not use same content in two mirror sites and link back to each other. At the beginning of the whole SEO journey a lot of SEO-spammers tried that to boost their SEO rankings and searhbbots hate it so much now that they will actually blacklist both the sites now if you they find content is copied.

We hope the above helps you in some ways to understand what SEO is or how it works. As mentioned in our part-1, this blog is intended for the “beginners” in the subject as there are much more complicated pointers in this area and we are more than happy if you want to discuss any of these by calling us.