Lean and Agile methodologies are nothing new, but in the last few years we have seen the emergence of several frameworks combining elements of both. The IBM DevOps framework is one clear example. Combining principles of Lean and Agile into a single framework enables scaling of the core benefits to the entire organization, not just pockets of experts dispersed across functional silos. The goal?
- faster release cycles, increased responsiveness, reduction of waste, lower cost base
- increased software quality, customer-centric feedback loops, cross-discipline collaboration
That said, these process transformation initiatives too often remain confined within the Engineering or IT side of the house. And given that more and more large scale software projects (mobile and web) are driven and managed out of the Marketing or LOB organizations, we need to get to a place where Engineering/IT and the Business share a common vision and framework for continuous software delivery. This blog will discuss key areas where the Business needs to engage to truly scale these benefits to the organization level.
Let’s take a look at the key principles behind these frameworks and highlight those which mostly impact the behavior of analysts, project/program managers and LoB executives on the business side:
- Optimize the whole: Development teams cannot get it right by themselves. The business must be actively engaged to ensure customer/user needs are properly understood, in-turn ensuring the intended outcome of the application/system is well communicated and understood, and eventually the overall effort is continuously steering toward the right business outcomes
- Eliminate waste: Identifying/removing wait time to reduce overall turn around and cycle times (active participation during needs/requirements analysis, timely inputs into work prioritization, immediate feedback on early prototyping/release). Discover the hidden factory!!!
- Empower people: Let the real user directly represent their needs, and build interaction systems and processes that make it easy for those with the needs to engage across the lifecycle
The most common symptom that engineering and the business are not in sync is a constant flow of “management urgencies” that are forced into the current sprint or iteration. These “must do now” urgencies are a massive source of distraction for the teams executing the work on both the business and the engineering side. Directly responsible for substantial loss in productivity across the whole chain, as well as a prominent source of friction in relationships between business and IT, these distractions and interruptions can be avoided with the right level of orchestration and collaboration.
So which are the crucial touch-points where the right level of engagement from the business can generate the most impact?
- Early definition of business needs: This is not about producing lengthy system requirements documents, it’s about interaction with software architects and designers early and often to properly describe the needs/expectations of the target users/customers, it’s about making sure the overall context is defined and understood. There will be several opportunities to get into detailed requirements as the work unfolds.
- Early involvement into definition of success/acceptance criteria: When I was a BA, little humbled me as much as thinking I had done a good job describing a business requirement only to then freeze when I was trying to define objective criteria that would serve to develop user acceptance test plans. Forcing the definition of acceptance criteria at the time requirements are defined often surfaces areas of the needs that could be better defined or drives important exchanges between engineering and the business.
- Early and on-going engagement into prioritization: Gone are the days when setting up priorities was the result of a monthly or quarterly exercise; customer/user behaviors change continuously, so should your alignment to their needs. Prioritizing monthly or quarterly is like driving your car on the freeway in a pitch dark night and turning on your headlights every 2 mins or so to get an idea of where you heading… a lot can happen in 2 mins driving at 100km/hour. Prioritizing is also no longer an exercise in faith/best-guesses/loud voice in the room…. this new world is about constantly adjusting based on validated learning; running A/B testing, driving early prototyping and experimentation, monitoring application usage, social media analytics all serve to drive the right backlogs/priorities of teams across the software delivery lifecycle.
So where to start?
This transformation is a journey, not a one-time call to action, different paths can be taken depending on your organization’s goals, culture and priorities. We’ve helped hundreds of organizations over the years plan their way forward, helping them structure teams and investments while respecting their constraints and objectives. Be bold, take this on-line DevOps Practice Self-Assessment! Or visit our blog on IBM’s support for the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).
Also, do visit us at Agile 2015 to experience IBM DevOps solutions for collaborative development, continuous testing and continuous release and deployment.
About the Author/Roger LeBlanc
Roger is the Strategic Offering Lead, DevOps Application Platform driving the Enterprise Scaled Agile solution. He joined IBM following the acquisition of Systemcorp ALG, serving as Managing Director, Professional Services and has since been involved in ensuring a smooth transformational journey for the clients. He has a credible perspective and proven track record for meeting executive stakeholders expectations and goals. Roger has contributed to revenue growth and customer successes as well as provided strategic oversight and guidance of customer engagements.