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Posts Tagged ‘Agile Success Tour

The Business Value of Agile Software Methods

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I conducted 10 sessions this year on the topic Socializing Agile with Your Executives. The various Agile champions that attended these sessions identified two major obstacles to successful vetting of the topic:

  1. Lack of hard quantitative data.
  2. The “It won’t work here” syndrome.

This post is about the first of the two – lack of hard quantitative data. A follow-on post will deal with the second obstacle.

Michael Mah‘s landmark study How Agile Projects Measure Up, and What This Means to You has been my recommendation for the Agile champion who needs to elevate his/her Agile pitch from qualitative to quantitative. This excellent study in nicely supplemented now by The Business Value of Agile Software Methods: Maximizing ROI with Just-in-Time Processes and Documentation by Rico, Sayani and Sone. It is an excellent fit for the champion promoting Agile for the following reasons:

  1. The book captures, analyzes and synthesizes the results of hundreds of systemic research studies.
  2. It provides data on the various Agile methods without favoring one over another. Furthermore, the authors are quite explicit in stating that it not the method itself but the fit of a method to a company/culture/environment that counts.
  3. It places equal weight on costs and benefits of Agile, thereby giving the reader a good grasp on trade-offs. This grasp can be enhanced through free downloads of cost and benefit spreadsheets from the corresponding Download Resource Center.
  4. A very impressive aspect of this new book is the broad spectrum of the metrics it provides. Just about any business metric your CIO/CFO/CXO might use as the basis for his/her decision-making process, including Real Options Analysis (ROA), is provided. Moreover, the book encourages the use of multiple metrics, clearly indicating the pro and cons of individual metrics. For example:

The business value of Agile methods may be as much as 90% higher than NPV using ROA under extreme market conditions, including high inflation, risk change, and amount of time.

Readers of this blog are familiar with my quip “Don’t take you boss to lunch; take him/her to the daily stand-up meeting.” I would suggest you give The Business Value of Agile Software Methods to your boss at the end of his/her first stand-up meeting. This recommendation is nicely seconded by the following excerpt from Sanjiv Augustine‘s review of the book:

… those looking to build a bullet proof case for agile methods based on solid data and comprehensive research and analysis will find this an invaluable work.

 

Disclosure: Colleague David F. Rico has kindly sent me a free copy of The Business Value of Agile Software Methods.

The Success of the Success Tour

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We started the 2009 Rally Agile Success Tour (AST) Series in March in Denver, CO; we just concluded it in London, UK. In between the AST “train” stopped at:

All in all we hosted about 1,000 participants in these cities. More than 40 panelists shared Agile experiences with their local colleagues. Some 200 meetings were held with various participants in conjunction with the events. Obviously, I cannot write here about the level of business generated by the success tour, but none of my Rally colleagues complained so far…

The breadth and depth of topics that were covered is mind-boggling. Here are a few of the most intriguing ones:

The success tour proved successful to a degree that actually perplexed me for quite some time. I had certainly expected a strong series of events from the outset and could point out to various things we were doing right along the way. Yet, the very simple ‘secret sauce’ that made the event series so remarkable eluded me until I collected my thoughts for writing this post:

The Agile Success Tour proved phenomenally successful because the Rally team is so much like the customers and prospects that participate in the events, license the Rally software and work hand-in-hand with Rally coaches.

A few words of explanation for what might seem on the surface like a somewhat banal statement. The various members of the Rally team – sales reps, coaches, technical account managers, marketing professionals and execs – resonated with participants in the events due to exceptionally high level of congruence in values, thinking and practices. If Ryan were the CTO of eBay he would probably have licensed Rally software; Jean would have re-architected the flow of eBay processes; Zach would have integrated the ALM tools eBay uses. As for Lauren, she would have single-handedly created a world-wide marketing events organization for eBay.

The power of being like your own customers is magnetic. Digital Equipment Corporation was immensely successful selling minicomputers to engineers like their own engineers in the 60’s and 70’s. Sun Microsystems rode the early Internet wave as their product designers were carbon copy of the folks who roamed the World Wide Web. Apple triumphed with the iPod because just about every Apple employee would have murdered for such a cool device. Nothing beats the intuitive understanding that comes with designing, marketing and selling the kind of product you will buy, play with and use yourself.

After the Santa Clara event, Forrester’s Tom Grant told me the following about Rally:

What a smart company – everyone gets it!

Though a slightly different perspective than mine, Tom had actually identified the outcome of the company-customer congruence I am highlighting in this post. Everyone at Rally gets it due to natural identification with his/her customers. Contexts and experiences of customers are exceptionally well understood and often replicated in Rally’s Boulder, CO headquarters and its various branch offices.

Fundamentally, the success of the success tour reflects the affinity between Rally and its clientele.

Scale in London – Part II

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What a grand conclusion for a year of Agile Success Tour events! High that my expectations of yesterday’s event in London were, the actual delivery and interaction with the participants surpassed them. As a matter of fact, I have not done as many customer 1-1’s in any of the previous events. Some of the interactions were with folks who came to the event from the continent. Remarkably, various customers stayed after the event to spontaneously dialog with other participants.

Speaking for Memex, Jim Mccumesty established the tone for the whole event. Agile to Jim is about:

  • Making a real difference
  • Changing patterns of individuals and teams
  • Transforming ‘life styles’

Have no mistakes – Jim had a lot of hard methodical and technical data that he shared with the audience. It was clear however that for Jim the whole things is about doing good things through Agile. His passion was contagious.

Trevor Croft viewed the decision to go Agile by Misys as a matter of fitting software methods to business circumstances. Agile was chosen to due to intrinsic characteristics of their Business Intelligence projects. Specifically, Trevor highlighted the following factors:

  • BI requirements would be constantly dynamic in breadth and depth
  • Needed to be quick to market from vision to delivery
  • Higher revenue –> emphasis on innovation
  • Break out of waterfall nexus of first trapping all requirements
  • Highly modularized factory production line approach for delivery

Trevor’s good points resonated with the trend highlighted by other panelists – the emphasis in Agile is moving toward:

  • Delivering the right products; and,
  • Delivering innovative products

Paul Lazarus of SpilGames equated Agile with growth. At the heart of it, SpilGame’s fast expansion from Holland to Poland and China was characteristic of the role Agile plays in the knowledge economy. Projects flow to the teams and to the talent, not the opposite way around.

David Hicks gave impressive highlights from the Nokia/Symbian/RADTAC work on the Symbian operating system over the past ten years:

  • >50 MLOC!
  • In a little over one year they are reaching the level of >1200 software engineers Agiling furiously in >120 teams
  • All these folks/teams on a single software product with synchronized release trains every 8-12 weeks

It is enlightening to combine David’s data with Dean Leffingwell’s reports on his experience at Nokia. The affinity of their insights is remarkable. Dean, in collaboration with Juha-Markus Aalto from Nokia, published an excellent paper on the subject. Moreover, Dean is actually ‘binding’ together his insightful blog posts to publish a new book entitled Agile Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs and the Enterprise. The book will be published by Addison-Wesley in early 2010.

Much more could and should be written about the London event. Until I have the opportunity to do justice to the subject, I will just mention my overarching conclusion from the event. The business interest in Agile in both the UK and in EMEA is as strong as the one in the US, if not stronger.

Scale in London – Part I

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No, this is not (yet) the report from the Rally Agile Success Tour (AST) in London. You will need to wait another week for my report from this forthcoming event. Rather, this post is to advise folks in the greater London area of a an intriguing thread we will be discussing in the Rally event there on Thursday, October 29.

The choice of companies for the event enabled us to offer participants the full spectrum of Agile scaling experiences, all the way to some 1,200 Scrummers on a single product in one case study. As a result, the richness of the forthcoming panel presentations is unprecedented. Time permitting, we will discuss the following subjects, and then some:

  • Three-layer enterprise Agile model
  • How to maintain integrity of a vertical feature when it has to be delivered by many Scrum ‘component’ teams?
  • Bringing multiple teams and multiple SDLCs together on one workflow
  • Cultural differences vis-a-vis Agile between Belgium, England, Finland, Holland, India, Israel, Poland and China.
  • How do you accomplish Fully Distributed Scrum under the cultural diversity indicated in the previous bullet?
  • The use of deep immersion techniques in Agile
  • The Agile with the Masters paradigm
  • How to maintain the push/pull balance?
  • What limit should be placed on the Daily Commit?
  • Emphasis on innovation – not “just” faster, better, etc.
  • Advantages of Software as a Service (SaaS) in the Agile context
  • How to tie  the Agile initiative to strategic investment considerations?
  • What was the ‘secret sauce’ of BMC’s Agile implementation? How can you apply it in your company/organization?
  • What is likely to be the hottest frontier in Agile during the 2010-2012 period?

One other “ingredient” makes the London event very special. All previous events, gratifying and successful that they were, have been held in the US. The event in London will certainly be different from its US predecessors. In experiences, in interpretations, in points of view, in challenges, in business designs and so on and so forth.

I Look forward to meeting you in London!

Written by israelgat

October 22, 2009 at 8:36 pm

An Omen in Chicago

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Amazing how things come together. A gentleman introduces himself at the conclusion of my breakout session (Socializing Agile with your Executives) in yesterday’s Rally Agile Success Tour (AST) event in Chicago. I am pleasantly surprised to learn he is Cutter Consortium colleague Scott Stribrny. Within a few sentences I discover he was actually the Cutter consultant to Follett Software. As readers of this blog are well aware of, Follett Software was prominently featured in the landmark study of Agile quality, productivity and time-to market by Michael Mah. To put the icing on the cake (so to speak), Rachel Weston – Rally’s Director of Professional Services – uses this very study by Michael Mah in her keynote presentation at the end of the event…

Symphono’s Robert Schmitt started the day with a quote from one of his developers:

I don’t want to deliver just twice a year; I love to deliver!

The power of this kind of craftsman’s pride in his/her software was nicely illustrated by hard numbers Robert cited. For example, on one of their projects, Symphono observed a cost of $12K instead of the $72K they would have expected under traditional software methods.

Playboy’s Mark Row highlighted the intricacies of project managing contents alongside project managing software. In Mark’s experience, contents developers tend to be visually oriented. Writing requirements does not quite cut it for folks of such orientation. As Mark needs to manage software development priorities across all contents initiatives (and many owners), the balance to be struck between the two is quite tricky. The non-formalistic nature of Agile has proven quite effective in bringing things together. As a matter of fact, Mark indicated Playboy’s marketing teams are now doing daily Scrum-like stand-up meeting. The bottom line from the perspective of his executive management is crystal clear:

Night and day since going Agile

Pariveda’s Jim West kept all of us honest with respect to how bad the starting point for Agile often is. According to Jim, they did not start Agile from square zero – they actually started from minus two (-2)…. In spite of this far from optimal starting conditions, Pariveda been successful on two noteworthy accounts:

  • Productivity improved by 15-20%
  • The managed to satisfy the needs of other processes by incorporating them in their Agile process. For example, SOX work items are represented as story cards in their backlog

Last but not least, ShopLocal’s Brendan Flynn highlighted the progress they made with Agile contracts. They incorporate both user stories and acceptance criteria in the contract. Furthermore, they pay special attention to specifying what is not included in the contract. To paraphrase the French proverb, Shop Local’s experience is that “good accounts make good (customer) relationships.” Remarkably, they achieve good customer relationships through Agile contracts at the scale of 5+ Billion page views annually through just one of their products!

Expressive quips were brought up in the lively Q&A sessions that followed the presentations. Here are a few gems:

    Make Agile your flavor [tailoring Agile to the needs of the organization]
    Make database decisions [data-driven decisions in Agile]
    A cube empire [working environments in the 80’s and 90’s]
    Exchange requests, not change requests [Agile contract policy]

In two week the Agile Success Tour “train” will cross the channel to London. (Please, do not enquire now how the train will make its way from Boulder, CO to Paris, France – we are delaying the decision on that leg of the trip to the last responsible minute). I suspect some of the Agile topics to be discussed in London might give a mild heart-burn to UK-based ITIL aficionados. But, how appropriate it is to conclude a year of great Agile success tours with an event in the grand city London!

Depth in Seattle

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To summarize it in one word, the October 1 Rally Agile Success Tour (AST) event in Seattle, WA was deep. Broad spectrum of topics – from CMMI  and SOX to Lean and “Lean+”; very knowledgeable participants; insightful panelists; plenty of hard Agile data; questions on real needs; dialogues that led to unexpected findings; and, 1-1 meetings focused on actions that could/should be taken after the event. Just like the recent AST event in Boston, MA, there was vibrancy in the air.

Getty’s Jeff Oberlander quantified the progress they made on fairly large scale releases (~900 user stories), shortening time-to-market (TTM) from 24 month to 4 months. He indicated this impressive change in time-to-market occurred in parallel with improvement in quality. Reader of this post might want to take a look at Chapter 1 of Agile Project Management by Jim Highsmith for a quantitative analysis of the correlation between the two (TTM and quality).

The impressive results reported by Jeff were supported by the classification given by Liberty Mutual’s Steven Johnson. Steven observes three kinds of projects, as follows:

  • Grass roots initiatives. Such projects typically lead to: {New TTM = 2/3 Old TTM}.
  • Organized pilots. Such projects typically lead to: {New TTM = 1/2 Old TTM}.
  • Overall R&D transformation. Such projects typically lead to: {New TTM = 1/3 Old TTM}.

From what I know of David Rico’s forthcoming book The Business Value of Agile Software Methods, the results reported by Steven are consistent with David’s findings.

Boeing’s Ryan Kleps focused on the impact of Agile methods on developer satisfaction. He presented the following data from a survey conducted in Boeing:

  • 30% improvement in satisfaction with respect to tools
  • 25% improvement in satisfaction with respect to involvement
  • 10% improvement in satisfaction with respect to trust

Interestingly, Ryan indicated that various “pirates” were starting to do Agile at Boeing as a result of the higher level of satisfaction noted above. We did not have the opportunity to cross-correlate data from Boeing with data from Liberty Mutual. My intuitive sense is that Ryan’s “pirates” and Jeff’s “grass roots initiatives” are synonymous.

thePlatform’s Reena Kawal and Microsoft’s Stein Dolan provided insights that are not often reported. Reena analyzed the much improved ability to assess trade-offs from a customer perspective. Stein highlighted how effective emulation can be in enabling teams to deal with code that has not been written yet. Their thoughts were vividly complemented by the 4X100 relay race metaphor given by Ryan: only 1 sprinter “works” at any point in time, while 3 are “idle”. Yet, there is no faster way to get the baton to the finish line…

One part of the event that was particularly gratifying to me was the role playing during the breakout session entitled “Socializing Agile with Your Executives.” Stein and I played the role of mean executives who do not get Agile. Participants in the session who played the role of the inspired Agile champion beat us up pretty effectively. As a matter of fact, one of the participants – CyberSource’s Tom Perry – gave the report from this breakout session to the whole audience when we reconvened. He delivered a very effective “why you should do Agile in spite of all your misgivings” message.

As indicated in a recent post, the AST “train” stops in Chicago, IL on the 15 of October. We are quite likely to address specialized topics that have not been brought up in previous events. The makeup of the panel in Chicago is unlike any of the nine panels I have prepped so far…

Toward Vertical Approach to Agile

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Yesterday we held a great Rally Agile Success Tour (AST)  event in Seattle (which I will describe in a subsequent post). On the 15th we will be doing the AST event in Chicago. This post is about an intriguing element of the forthcoming Chicago event.

Every one of the 9 events we held so far (click here for sample video clips from the events) was unique in some ways. The demographics in Atlanta, GA were not like those in Boston, MA. The issues brought up in Los Angeles, CA were different from those in Washington, DC. The panelists in New York, NY addressed a set of topics that did not come to the fore in the Santa Clara, CA event. Each event was characterized by locality of reference – topics, discussions, breakout sessions and 1-1 meetings that were of relevance and importance in the context of the local Agile community.

Having worked with the Chicago panelists in preparation for the forthcoming event, my sense is that we will immerse the participants (and ourselves, of course) in a set of Agile/Lean challenges that could be quite different from those we addressed in other cities. Some very unique companies are represented in the panel we will hold in Chicago.

I actually consider Chicago on the 15th a potential pivot in deepening our understanding of the way Agile applies to various verticals. We are progressing from a horizontal approach to applying Agile toward a more vertical assimilation. The differences between the two might be subtle, but they are all important for the success of the Agile champion.

Written by israelgat

October 2, 2009 at 11:37 am

Posted in Events

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