Re: 'What's Real and What's for Sale'...
I can't see how Agile is a good idea except for the smallest trivial projects.
It works well if you are in an environment that is built around it and working towards a clear vision. If I was creating a startup, I would definitely use an approach built around Agile because it allows you to get something working quickly and to build new functionality together, adjusting it as you need to, in order to grow your product. A lot of the things that work well about it are related to keeping everyone in a team communicating and aware of the work you are doing- it would be fair to say that a good team will probably do that anyway.
The problem comes when you are working in an environment that is not built around so you end up with diverging expectations - if you are trying to move fast but it takes three months for someone to come back with a key requirement, you're going to have to wait or you're going to implement something half-assed and have to change it when the requirement does come through. If there's no clear vision then you don't know what you are working towards. In government it seems to have been seen as an excuse for changing specification every few days, which in the past was very costly because charging for changes was built into the contracts, but now because they're "agile" it just holds the project up for longer and keeps it in an incomplete middle ground where it is no use to anyone. The charges come from the project taking longer rather than from an upfront cost for changes, but in either case the solution would be to have a clear idea of what the product is supposed to do way earlier. Agile does tend to discourage a complete architectural overview of a product as it is developed, which can be a problem on large projects for sure, but that is quite avoidable if you have competent leadership.
Developing solid, reliable, software is a result of culture more than methodology and unfortunately the culture within the civil service in this country seems actively opposed to it.