Jane von Kirchbach, the Director of Enterprise Systems and Data at Hospira, a subsidiary of Pfizer, spoke to AIS students about agile methodologies. She led off by discussing the Marshmallow challenge, a popular team-building exercise. In the challenge, a group must work together to use string, tape, and uncooked spaghetti to build a tower that supports a marshmallow, within a 20 minute time frame. Jane explained that historically, business students perform the worst in this challenge, while children perform the best. The reason behind this statistic is that each of those two groups approaches the challenge in a distinct way. Business students tend to spend 15 to 18 minutes planning their approach, and then make one attempt at building the tower, only to have it fall down, leaving them with no time for another attempt. Children, on the other hand, make about 3 or 4 attempts at building the tower, failing a few times along the way, but ultimately succeeding. This example, Jane explained, illustrates the benefits of employing agile methodologies instead of waterfall methodologies.
Jane then explained how organizations put agile methodologies into practice, and touched on a few different frame works, including Scrum. Members were introduced to terms such as sprint, daily scrum, and ScrumMaster. Among the many advantages of using an agile methodology, a major one is that it allows a firm to discover flaws and make adjustments to a product or process in a quick and regular fashion, rather than having issues pop up very late into the software development life cycle. Equating agile development to cooking a dish with many flavors and spices, Jane advised students to always “Stir, taste, adjust”. Her presentation provided useful insight that will benefit students in their future employment.