Figure 1: Agile Assessment – Quality (Source: QSMA)
Colleague and friend Michael Mah has kindly shared with me the figure above – quality assessment for a sample of Agile projects in the QSMA metrics database of more than 8000 software projects. The two red squares in this figure represent the recent results Mah measured on two projects carried out by Quick Solutions (QSI) – a Westerville, OH company offering a broad range IT services.
One to one-and-a-half standard deviation better than the mean might not seem like much to six sigma black belts. However, in the context of typical results we see in the software industry the QSI results are outstanding. I have not done the exact math whether those results are superior to 95%, 97% or 98% of software projects in the QSMA database as the very exact figure almost does not matter when you achieve this level of excellence.
I asked Bart Murphy – QSI’s Vice President of Delivery and Operations – for the ‘secret sauce.’ Here is the QSI recipe:
For the projects referenced in Michael’s evaluation, our primary focus was quality… Our team was tasked with not only a significant Innovation effort, but we also managed all aspects of supporting and stabilizing the application (production support, triage, infrastructure, database support, etc.). Our ‘secret sauce’ was assembling a world class team and executing our Agile methodology. We organized the team efforts to focus on the three major initiatives; Innovation, Stabilization (Technical Debt), and Production Support. We developed a release plan and coordinated efforts to deploy releases that resolved a significant number of defects, introduced market differentiating features, and addressed massive amount of technical debt. The team was able to accomplish this without introducing additional defects into the production system. Our success can be attributed to the commitment from the business to understand our Agile methodology and being highly engaged throughout the project (co-located with the team). In addition, the focus of quality that is integrated into our process through the use of Test Driven Development, Continuous Integration, Test Automation, Quality Assurance, and Show & Tells. Lastly, this would not have been possible without the co-location of the entire team given the significant issues and time constraints for delivery.
Bart also provided me with a table ‘a la Capers Jones’ in which he elaborates on the factors that helped QSI achieve these results and those that stood in the way. I will publish and discuss Bart’s table in a forthcoming post. As part of this post I will also compare the factors identified by Bart with those reported by Capers Jones.