Archive for the ‘Benefits of Agile’ Category
Here is a compilation of summaries of Amazon reviews on the Kindle edition of The Concise Executive Guide to Agile:
If you are such a decision maker, and like most are hard-pressed for time, then you must read this book. Dr. Gat cuts right to the chase and gives pearls of wisdom – that come from having “done it himself” when it comes to the daunting task of TRANSFORMING an organization into successfully applying Agile methods. If you’re a team leader and you need executive support and buy-in, then buy this book for the key people whom you value the most. Give it to them as a gift. They will thank you for it!
“The Concise Executive Guide to Agile” by Israel Gat is a must-read for enthusiasts of agile methods at all levels of the organization. Israel has well over 30 years of industry experience, has his PhD in Computer Science, and has helped manage an agile rollout involving 1,000 software developers. While there are many technical and managerial treatises on agile methods emerging in increasing frequency all of the time, Israel’s new guide is meant to explain the essence of agile methods to R&D, Marketing, Sales, Program Management, Professional Services, Customer Support, Finance, or IT folks.
Dr. Gat goes beyond the traditional software development process literature and broadens the case for the Agile organization, with effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity – much like the Agile development process described by Israel.
A must read for any organization leader dependant on software whether it be for software for internal operations or software features built for customer sales. Israel’s breadth and depth of both knowledge and experience shine through as he provides practical advice to help you understand what Agile can and can not do for your organization.
For me, this book provided something unique, which is a look into the way high level executives think about Agile.
This book rapidly cuts through the layers of confusion surrounding Agile development and focuses on what you “NEED” to know. Dr. Gat’s vast experience shines through as he elegantly simplifies the process.
Israel’s experience and wisdom in transforming a software development culture in a very large multi-site virtual team environment is well captured… Israel has done a great job in transforming his experience into a guide. That is the beauty of the book.
This is the “must-read” book if you’re an executive charged with Agile transformation, product development, or business strategy. The insights from Gat cover all three. Most companies talk a good Agile game. If you want results, however, please pay heed to the advice in this book.
The book will help you to flexibly navigate the hurdles inherent in selling and succeeding with Agile in your business: i.e. existing methodologies, outsourcing, diverse geographies, resistance to change, and the rest. They are all explained here by someone who has apparently already successfully fought the battles. A great read!
He has been there, and this book shares the unique insights of a senior manager who guided a large organization through the change process. If you are in this seat in your organization then this book is for you.
Israel distills his broad experience and many years of wisdom rolling out Agile into a succinct overview that is deep in knowledge, but accessible.
I’ve been a fan of Israel’s “The Agile Executive” blog for some time and had high hopes for this book… and the book didn’t disappoint!
While I was looking for answers; what I found instead was much more interesting. Israel was able to collect all the wisdom of doing large scale agile rollouts into one document, highlighting the geographic features along the way. That is a lot harder to do than simply proclaiming one correct path, and, speaking from experience, more helpful to the reader than they know.
You can read the full reviews here.
A fascinating difference exists between Agile and Business Service Management (BSM). Agile emphasizes continuous flow of value to the customer. In contrast, BSM focuses on the business – it aligns the deliverables of IT to the enterprise’s business goals. Subtle that the difference might be, the two methods evolved along quite different lines in spite of the common denominator – dealing with software.
In this guest post, Alan Shalloway – Founder and CEO of NetObjectives – discusses the implications of focusing on the business as distinct from focusing on the customer. His discussion is part of a few thought-provoking threads he weaves around the Agile Manifesto. Alan perceives the Manifesto a product of the times. He thinks aloud whether today’s circumstances require a revised manifesto.
Alan is a man of passion. While I do not always agree with him, I have a lot of respect for his quest to find the deeper truths. Furthermore, I always learn from him. Whether you agree or disagree with the opinion Alan articulates in this post, “listening” to his thoughts is well worth your time.
Here is Alan:
The Agile Manifesto was a watershed event that has forever changed the landscape of software development. So profound a positive impact of it has had, that few challenge whether it was actually correct. Manifestos are often a statement in reaction to something prevalent that needs changing. This makes them very topical and temporal – and the exact intention needs to be restated when the landscape against which it was drawn has changed. The Agile Manifesto states:
“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.”
At the time of its edict, this was profound and well stated. Too many software teams were:
- Following a process dictated to them from outside their team
- Managing according to an extensive set of artifacts that recorded where they supposedly were well before software existed
- Were given a set of requirements to meet with little opportunity to discuss real needs (note, points 3 and 4 in the manifesto address this point in two ways – first recognizing that customer collaboration is necessary to discover their true needs and second that it is essential to take advantage of newly discovered information)
The manifesto represented a new paradigm from which to work – one in which the team would have better control over its destiny and where it was recognized that one had to make incremental, iterative movement towards one’s goals – both in discovering the true goal and in implementing it.
Unfortunately, the perspective from which the manifesto was created, or at least the methods which first followed the manifesto, have been extremely team centric. Not a surprise, given the paradigm at the time gave development teams too little say in their own methods. The impact of this has been, not surprisingly, success at the teams and difficult beyond the team. It is almost axiomatic now that companies will have successful team pilots only to bog down in their enterprise agile adoption efforts or even revert back to earlier methods.
I say “not surprisingly” because several things have been left out of the agile manifesto. These are:
- The role of management
- The role of process
- The role of planning
- And indirectly, the role of guiding principles
It could also be said that the driver for agile development is misplaced. I do not believe “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” This makes software groups customer driven, not business driven.
There is a subtle, but important difference. Basically, conscious or not, the Agile Manifesto is driven with a team-centric view of satisfying customers – business and management play mostly secondary roles. Unfortunately, there is a significant difference between customer driven and business driven (see the figure entitled Alignment with Vision of Business to the right). This is not apparent at the team level (the team is supposed to satisfy the customer). But definitely at the business level. Not surprising, however, since the manifesto is a team perspective it states things in terms of customer value.
Ironically, it is the over-focus on the team, however, that is robbing teams of one of their greatest tools. Clearly any method must have respecting people and providing those doing the work the ability to choose how they do their work. But this does not mean that process isn’t essential or that attending to certain laws of software development is optional. Rather it means that process can’t be imposed on teams since to do so would both rob them of respect and almost certainly be the wrong way to do things – who knows more about how to get work done than the people doing the work themselves?
But “Individuals over process” as the first line has come to be called, makes it sound like people are it. I do not think so – and I think this mindset has caused a lot of damage in many ways.
There is great evidence that the best approach is not merely get smart people onto a team and have them figure out how to solve their problems. They must be properly equipped to do so. Just being smart doesn’t mean you can solve the challenges facing you. This should be readily apparent, but in many ways, the Agile community has mostly ignored it. Actually, there is not really an Agile community any more – there are factions that have significantly different beliefs. For example, XP has long recognized the need for technical practices in Agile while the Scrum community is only just starting to get into what these are.
However, except for the Lean/Kanban community, few Agilists seem to espouse discovering and following the laws of product development flow (or even recognize their existence). This, in my mind, has led to the low rate of success in scaling Scrum to the enterprise*. Ironically, it is the over-focus on people that leads many in the Scrum community to assert this lack of success is a lack willingness to take the effort to improve. This is not surprising – if it’s up to the team to succeed, then when they don’t it must be something wrong with the team or their management when they fail. I think not. I think it is the lack of understanding of the principles of software development flow.
These laws are not new. Don Reinertsen, in his iconic book Managing the Design Factory lays out much of the rules of product development. His more recent book The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development he lays out 175 of these principles.
To me, true respect for people means that one must equip them with what they need to get their job done. Our thinking in the Agile community should change from “People over process” to one of “People times process.” This phrase emphasizes that if either are low, you get a low productivity. Process does not ensure success. But a poor process requires heroes to succeed. We’d like good, motivated, well-intentioned people to be able to succeed.
Our new agile perspective needs to include an understanding of what teams need to know to do their work. This opens up a role for managers to actively help teams get their job done and to coach them when they have challenges or lose their way. While I will always be thankful for the Agile Manifesto, I am looking for a Business Agile Manifesto that will expand the focus from the team to the entire enterprise.
 Ken Schwaber, iconic leader of the Scrum community has said that “I estimate that 75% of those organizations using Scrum will not succeed in getting the benefits that they hope for from it.”
 I first heard this from Don Reinertsen. Before that I used to say “People plus process.”
Technologies used by public web companies and now cloud computing are looking to offer a new way to deliver applications by addressing deployment and provisioning concerns. Agile software development has sped up the actual development of software, and now the bottle-neck is in operations who’re not always able to deploy software at the same velocity that Agile teams ship code. What do these technologies look like, are they realistic, and how might they affect your organization?
The topic is important from a few perspectives, such as the new business models it enables. With Agile infrastructure, a closed loop is formed between vendor and customer. This loop operates on the basis of close to real-time feedback. The new functionality in the software deployed in the afternoon could be in response to a specific need that was brought up in the morning. Hence, the business focus and the business design change from software that has already been developed and tested (‘done done’) but not yet delivered, to one that has been developed, tested and deployed (‘done done done’) in ultra fast way.
It should also be pointed out that the line between developing content and developing software gets really blurry nowadays. From a company perspective both software and contents are entities that are being made available for dissemination. If you accept the premise that the generation of content and development of the corresponding software should be done under a unified Agile model, the desirability, the power and the benefits of managing development and delivery in unison become obvious. When applied to both content and software, an agile infrastructure paradigm could easily transform the publishing industry, and others.
In short, the business benefits Agile Infrastructure begets trump the (very significant) operational benefits it enables.
Colleague Christian Sarkar drew my attention to two recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) articles that shed light on the way(s) innovation is being approached nowadays. To the best of my knowledge, none of the two articles has been written by an author who is associated with the Agile movement. Both, if you ask me, would have resonated big time with the authors of the Agile Manifesto.
The February 2009 HBR article How to Design Smart Business Experiments focuses on data-driven decisions as distinct from decisions taken based on “intuition”:
Every day, managers in your organization take steps to implement new ideas without having any real evidence to back them up. They fiddle with offerings, try out distribution approaches, and alter how work gets done, usually acting on little more than gut feel or seeming common sense—”I’ll bet this” or “I think that.” Even more disturbing, some wrap their decisions in the language of science, creating an illusion of evidence. Their so-called experiments aren’t worthy of the name, because they lack investigative rigor. It’s likely that the resulting guesses will be wrong and, worst of all, that very little will have been learned in the process.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks to new, broadly available software and given some straightforward investments to build capabilities, managers can now base consequential decisions on scientifically valid experiments. Of course, the scientific method is not new, nor is its application in business. The R&D centers of firms ranging from biscuit bakers to drug makers have always relied on it, as have direct-mail marketers tracking response rates to different permutations of their pitches. To apply it outside such settings, however, has until recently been a major undertaking. Any foray into the randomized testing of management ideas—that is, the random assignment of subjects to test and control groups—meant employing or engaging a PhD in statistics or perhaps a “design of experiments” expert (sometimes seen in advanced TQM programs). Now, a quantitatively trained MBA can oversee the process, assisted by software that will help determine what kind of samples are necessary, which sites to use for testing and controls, and whether any changes resulting from experiments are statistically significant.
On the heels of this essay on how one could attain and utilize experimentally validated data, the October 2009 HBR article How GE is Disrupting Itself discusses what is already happening in the form of Reverse Innovation:
- The model that GE and other industrial manufacturers have followed for decades – developing high-end products at home and adapting them for other markets around the world – won’t suffice as growth slows in rich nations.
- To tap opportunities in emerging markets and pioneer value segments in wealthy countries, companies must learn reverse innovation: developing products in countries like China and India and then distributing them globally.
- While multinationals need both approaches, there are deep conflicts between the two. But those conflicts can be overcome.
- If GE doesn’t master reverse innovation, the emerging giants could destroy the company.
It does not really matter whether you are a “shoe string and prayer” start-up spending $500 on A/B testing through Web 2.0 technology or a Fortune 500 company investing $1B in the development and introduction of a new car in rural India in order to “pioneer value segments in wealthy countries.” Either way, your experimentation is affordable in the context of the end-result you have in mind.
Fast forward to Agile methods. The chunking of work to two-week segments makes experimentation affordable – you cancel an unsuccessful iteration as needed and move on to work on the next one. Furthermore, you can make the go/no-go decision with respect to an iteration based on statistically significant “real time” user response. This closed-loop operational nimbleness and affordability , in conjunction with a mindset that considers a “failure” of an iteration as a valuable lesson to learn from, facilitates experimentation. Innovation simply follows.
During turbulent times such as the past year, Agile business service management enables the business to become more competitive by speeding up the pace of delivery of new functionality and accommodating changes in business requirements as part of standard operating procedures. Like a computer chess program that extends clever tactics into the strategic realm [The New Yorker 2005], it compensates for the lack of prolonged periods of techno-economic stability through business Agility, substituting speed, flexibility and momentum for traditional long range planning. It is particularly noteworthy that Agile business service management applies equally well to companies pursuing adaptive strategies as to those betting on shaping strategies [Hagel et al 2008].
As indicated in a previous post, the article outlines the research agenda I will be pursuing. Specifically:
- How is agile BSM implemented and delivered? …measured?
- What are the benefits of agile BSM to the business objectives of development? …ops? …test?
- Who carriers responsibility for agile BSM delivery and implementation?
- Who benefits from agile BSM delivery & implementation?
- How are these benefits applied?
- When is Agile BSM expected to be understood and accepted by the business entities?
- Where is agile BSM likely to be wholeheartedly implemented first?
- What is the impact of Agile BSM on ISV’s (as distinct from IT “shops”)?
Listeners to Live Recording of Four Principles, Four Culture, One Mirror are well aware of my view of scaling downstream – it is the most tricky of the three dimensions of Agile scaling (up, out, downstream). IMHO Agile BSM is the first step toward effective scaling downstream.