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Posts Tagged ‘Agile Austin

Agile Infrastructure

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Ten years ago I probably would not have seen any connection between global warming and server design. Today, power considerations prevail in the packaging of servers, particularly those slated for use in large and very large data centers. The dots have been connected to characterize servers in terms of their eco foot print.

In his Agile Austin presentation a couple of days ago, Cote delivered a strong case for connecting the dots of Agile software development with those of Cloud Computing. Software development and IT operations become largely inseparable in cloud environments.  In many of these environments, customer feedback is given “real time” and needs to be responded to in an ultra fast manner. Companies that develop fast closed-loop feedback and response systems are likely to have a major competitive advantage. They can make development and investment decisions based on actual user analytics, feature analytics and aggregate analytics instead of speculating what might prove valuable.

While the connection between Agile and Cloud might not be broadly recognized yet, the subject IMHO is of paramount importance. In recognition of this importance, Michael Cote, John Allspaw,  Andrew Shafer and I plan to dig into it in a podcast next week. Stay tuned…

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And Now the Bottle-neck is in Operations

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In his forthcoming Agile Austin presentation, colleague and friend Michael Cote will be discussing velocity in Agile development vis-a-vis velocity in IT operations. To quote Cote:

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.

Your Agile Hype is Gonna Get You

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The graveyards are filled with marketers who over-hyped and sales reps who sold beyond the roadmap. Lack of coherence between desire and reality has proven lethal time and time again.

Last night in Agile Austin a panel was held about Agile in Borland prior to its recent acquisition by Micro Focus. One of the fascinating points brought up by the panel of ex-Borland employees was how the outbound Agile marketing hype was detrimental to continuous improvement inside. Declaring success with Agile to the outside world reduced the motivation (and the budget) to work hard at improving the methodology of their own Agile development teams. Expertise and energy of the various top notch Agile consultants that worked with Borland were primarily invested in marketing, not in R&D.

Beware your Agile hype! No matter what industry you are in, it had better be fully backed by corresponding excellence of the development teams.

Written by israelgat

October 7, 2009 at 7:54 am

Posted in Companies

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Preliminary Assessment of “Ask an Expert”

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Just about three months ago we started an “Ask an Expert” service for Agile practitioners in Austin. The service was defined as follows:

The objective of the Ask an Expert program is to provide free consultation by experienced Agile Austin coaches to any Austinite that wrestles with issues related to promoting, planning and executing Agile methods. The program will address the needs of practitioners in companies that produce software, embed software, or use software as an integral part of their business processes. In addition to 1-1 consultation, coaches will gladly hold discussions with entire teams.

Ask an Expert sessions should be primarily regarded as a step toward addressing concrete Agile issues that manifest themselves in a specific environment. Coaches might not be able to complete a comprehensive analysis, but will make certain to suggest what the heart of the problem might be and point out Agile resources that practitioners could use on their own.

To ensure available access to experts, consultative session time will be divided between attendees. Team discussions with any Agilists attending the program will be encouraged to maximize the sharing of experience and draw out the wisdom of crowds. One-on-one sessions are available on request, but will be time-limited based on attendance (15 minutes typical).

The program will strive to balance utility with fun. Utility will primarily be delivered through actionable insights; fun will be had through passionate exploration of Agile topics in a friendly and collaborative manner.

Our experience over the past three months indicates:

  • A broad spectrum of question/topics has been brought up. Most of the questions revolve around the “hows” of Agile. Some questions address the “whats” of Agile. Precious few get into the “whys” of Agile. Click here for details.
  • Majority of questions apply to the project team level. Only a few address enterprise level issues.
  • Many questions (and the discussions that follow) are actually about the software engineering fabric, not about Agile per se.
  • The “all singing all dancing” format of the sessions seems to work pretty well. It often leads to uncovering questions/issues we had not thought about before.
  • Having said that, we do not really know at this point in time whether some of the participants would have preferred a more traditional 1-1 format.
  • Most participants seem to have already been sold on the benefits of Agile. We do not usually get folks who are struggling with “Waterfall v. Agile” questions.

Most gratifying, some early “return on investment” indicators have been noticed. For example, one of the participants was so kind to send the following note:

Thank y’all for your help with my presentation about Agile to my VP. The meeting went well and we are moving forward with Agile. I’m going to work on a mock-up of a release and project, to show what Agile release planning and budgeting would look like. I’ll get buy-in based on this mock-up from the directors, then move on to a pilot project.
 
This is a huge step for… [company name deleted by IG], one I wouldn’t have predicted 6 months ago. The information and resources available through Agile Austin were essential in making this happen. Thank you for your help!

Written by israelgat

July 13, 2009 at 12:17 pm

The “All In!” Approach to Agile Rollout – Austin and Atlanta

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The June 18 “Ask and Expert” session of Agile Austin poses a unique opportunity to to discuss the pros and cons of the “All In!” approach with Erik Huddleston– an Agile champion who has successfully implemented Scrum in this manner. Bringing Scum to Inovis in 2007, Erik opted for an “All In!” implementation instead of the more customary team-by-team rollout. The Inovis case study is one of the very few authoritative sources on this gutsy approach.

If you can’t attend the clinic in Austin on the 18th, you might want to watch out for his forthcoming Agile Success Tour panel session in Atlanta, GA on the 25th. Erik’s insights will be posted  here and here a few days after the event.

Written by israelgat

June 13, 2009 at 2:04 pm

It is a Team, not a Clinic

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We have by now held three sessions of the Agile Austin “Ask an Expert” service. The thing that impressed me most in these three meetings is the effectiveness of the the team discussion modus. Rather than make the clinic a series of 1-1 consultations, we followed Scott Killen‘s good suggestion to conduct it in the manner articulated in the statement of purpose:

Team discussions with any Agilists attending the program will be encouraged to maximize the sharing of experience and draw out the wisdom of crowds.

It is starting to become evident we enriched the experience and made it more gratifying by moving away from the {professor –> student} modus. The sessions are kind of everyone singing, everyone dancing. Rather than a plain answer for a plain question, we get much richer threads. Moreover, it is obvious the experience one clinic “patient” shares with another is as valuable as the expert advice.

We are starting to see repeat “patients.” It is really becoming a team more than a clinic.

Written by israelgat

May 21, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Questions from “Ask an Expert”

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I had the pleasure of participating in the May 7 and May 14 sessions of the Agile Austin “Ask an Expert” Service. You can read the questions/topics brought up in these sessions by clicking here. Following are two observations from the questions cited so far:

  • Enterprise readiness issues are rarely understood, let alone addressed in advance of an Agile roll-out. The focus on the “hows” of the process seems to consume the energy of the Agile practitioners. Precious little is left for the “whys.”
  • Many questions (and the discussions that follow) are actually about the software engineering fabric, not about Agile per se.

The two are actually related. It is too easy to try to boil the ocean if you do not think of Agile as a single “layer” in the overall software engineering fabric, pretty much along the lines one thinks of a layer such as Transport in the OSI Model. Needless to say, trying to boil the ocean can consume you to the point nothing is left for the deeper understanding of the “whys” of Agile.

The reader is encouraged to take a look at the post entitled The House Jim Built. The two views of Agile given in this post by Cutter consultants Jim Highsmith and David Spann capture the essence of Agile in a lucid manner. You can start with either of the two views, using the one you prefer as a guide to placing Agile in the bigger picture.

(Please note Anne Mullaney‘s kind offer in the thread accompanying the post to send the full copy of Jim’s E-Mail Advisor to readers of the blog. David’s Research Report is in the public domain).

Written by israelgat

May 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm