Agile Methodology – Advantages beyond the Development Team

26.10.2011 1

My last post noted we’re creating a Cultural Shift in the organization – I’ve instigated moving to Agile Methodology for the development of our products. I’m happy to report that the development team likes the advantages we’ve seen. There’s more focus and discipline on estimating work as we plan for sprints, we formally review sprint success and daily troubleshoot challenges, and formally capture the lessons learned after doing the work. All these are good things to the ordered minds of engineers and for managers too.

What was unexpected in all this is the discipline that other areas of the organization are developing to support the process. The original intent was simply to develop better – better quality, better testing, having a common definition of “done” etc. The advantages of having shippable product delivered in a relatively short time frame can’t be ignored and other areas of the business are examining their methods to getting the work done.

Advantages:

  1. Requirements are becoming more tightly defined and we’re receiving them without value statements.  Instead they are becoming goal oriented without any references to subjective terms ( i.e. simple, intuitive, user-friendly).
  2. The dependencies external to the development team are handled more efficiently.  Given that we have tighter development windows, other verticals are delivering more quickly to feed their information into the development team.
  3. Having a set development window means the desire to add last minute requirements to a product release has decreased significantly.  We can always do another sprint and take the time to implement correctly.
  4. We’re able to allocate resources far more efficiently and the organization can prioritize efforts.  This is the Biggest Win!
The Biggest Win:
I recently stopped all development activity.  I’m betting some of the PM’s out there are wondering how schedules were maintained if we stopped development.  Well they weren’t for a short while.  I recognized a need for the organization to determine priorities and since we have limited resources, applying them appropriately is always a challenge.  Allocating expertise to maintain multiple deliveries is hard with a limited pool.  To combat this, we took the time we needed to create sprint plans for five different projects.  The organization was wondering how we could deliver against all five and by boiling down each intiative we could see where we had common demands on specific developers.

 

Very quickly we were able to determine which resource was a bottle neck when we compared each sprint plan.  I presented the plans to management and they were able to prioritize projects against customer demand.  By showing where resources were needed against sprint objectives, it was easy to give direction on where efforts should go.  This directly translates to greater precision for determining cash flow, budget forecasting, hiring, and external delivery promises.  Development is now working on deliverables targeted directly to customers.

 

Future:
The biggest win is the biggest advantage and will provide opportunities to improve our internal best practices.  I’m contemplating creating operational tools where agile methods are utilized alongside traditional waterfall approaches  in other areas of the business.  I can see critical path methodology extended to operational activities, feeding inputs into the agile process of the development team.

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