The Agile Executive

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Posts Tagged ‘BSM Review

Prior to Sprint Zero: A Note on Jakob Nielsen’s “Agile User Experience Projects”

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Dr. Jakob Nielsen published the results of a follow-on study to his 2008 report Agile Development Methods and Usability.  The bottom line from the 2009 study (entitled Agile User Experience Projects) is as follows:

The two main recommendations for ensuring good usability in Agile projects remain the same as in our original research:

  • Separate design and development, and have the user interface team progress one step ahead of the implementation team. That way, when it comes time to build something, it’s already been designed and tested. (And yes, you can do both in a week or two by using paper prototypes and discount user testing.)
  • Maintain a coherent vision of the user interface architecture. Create the initial vision during a “sprint zero” period — before any implementation has started — and maintain it through annual (or semi-annual) design vision sprints. You can’t just design individual features; they have to fit together into a coherent whole — a whole that must be designed as well. Bottom-up user interface design equals a confused total user experience (the Linux syndrome).
  • I would like to highlight one implicit sub-aspect of Dr. Nielsen’s good counsel to maintain a coherent vision of the user interface architecture:

    • Ensure coherence with the underlying application paradigm

    To illustrate the point, think of a Business Service Management Application. You might monitor any number of servers, routers, databases and applications in order to ensure that a service satisfies the corresponding Service Level Agreement. However, the user interface architecture should have service as its fundamental concept. The architecture should certainly enable zooming in on any component of the service. But, the status of any such component (or sub-component) is merely means to an end: reflecting the status of the service and initiating as appropriate action(s) to fix it. Forming a service piecemeal from a number of constituent elements like those mentioned above – servers, routers, databases, applications, etc.  – is no substitute to “service orientation” of the user interface.

    The reason for my strong emphasis on the service as the most fundamental user interface concept is nicely captured in the article “How to Spell BSM” by BSM Review‘s Tom Bishop:

    Most businesses today are so dependent on IT that, if an IT organization does not understand how the business depends on its services, or does not manage those services with that business perspective in mind, they are dooming the business to slow, steady death….

    Dr. Nielsen’s recommendation to conceive the initial user interface architecture prior to beginning any implementation work is very consistent with this imperative need in BSM to manage the services from a business perspective. I would actually go one step further and contend that whenever the underlying paradigm changes in a manner as dramatic as the servers –> services in the BSM example above, demonstration of the core concept(s) of the user interface might need to precede the “sprint zero” period. In the context of the overall planning and budgeting process which governs the Agile process, such demonstration could actually be a pre-requisite to launching “sprint zero.”

    If you consider this “prior to sprint zero” approach a bit heavy-handed, I would offer a simple test to assess its reasonableness. Play with a number of IT Service Management (ITSM) products that you picked in random. Once you did so, compare the numbers of those that clearly have services at their core, to the number of those that integrated services into their user interface as an afterthought.

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    The Case for Agile Business Service Management

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    BSM Review has just published my article The Case for Agile Business Service Management. Here is a key para from the article:

    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.

    Agile Business Service Management

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    Over the weekend we activated the BSM Review. It is a thought leadership website dedicated to next practices in Business Service Management (BSM) in a way that is appropriate for our era. To quote my colleague and friend Bill Keyworth:

    This website is dedicated to the BSM dialogue by whoever wishes to participate.  There is no fee to join …no content that requires a subscription …and no censorship of reasonable ideas and questions.

    My area of focus in this site is Agile Business Service Management. The term is defined as follows:

    Agile Business Service Management (Agile BSM) is the fusion of modern software development methods with the prevailing preference to run IT from the perspective of the business customer. Instead of dividing the “world” to development on the one hand and operations on the other hand, Agile Business Service Management unifies the two to manage them as part of one continuum that improves the delivery and usage of the application to the targeted business end-user. By so doing, it crosses the metaphorical chasm between the R&D lab and the customer door (or laptop, or iPhone, or…)

    My research agenda in the context of the BSM Review will be outlined in a forthcoming post. For now, suffice it to say it will primarily be driven by two themes:

    • Business alignment: At the heart of it, BSM is a discipline to better align business with IT; at its core, Agile is about “customer collaboration over contract negotiation.” The two are conceptually similar: they express the strong desire in both development and operations to carry out meaningful tasks that have business impact.
    • Continuous manufacturing: I view IT as a form of continuous manufacturing. If you accept this premise, the application of Agile concepts, principles and techniques to IT management makes perfect sense. Just as Agile has been influenced by Lean techniques from manufacturing, it has the potential now to influences (continuous) manufacturing in its IT incarnation.

    If software development is your primary interest, you might find my forthcoming posts in BSM Review go a little beyond the traditional scope of software methods. If, however, you are interested in software delivery in entirety, you are likely to find good synergy between the topics I will address in BSM Review and those I will continue to bring up in The Agile Executive. Either way, I trust my posts and Cote’s will be of on-going interest to you.