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Agile 2010 - Industry Analyst Roundtable

by Shane Hastie on Aug 16, 2010 |

On Tuesday afternoon the conference hosted an Industry Analyst round table to hear their take on the current state of Agile and where the industry is headed in the future. 

 

The four panelists were:

·         Dave West, Forrester Research

·         David Norton, Gartner

·         Melinda Ballou, IDC

·         Michael Azoff, Ovum

 


Jim Newkirk, chair of the Agile 2010 conference, led the questioning by asking the panel to introduce themselves and then to comment on the Top three things an organisation needs to do to ensure success in an Agile rollout:

David Norton

Make the Agile change a part of the “organisational DNA”.  Many  organisations underestimate the depth of the change that an Agile transition needs, it’s end-to-end cultural change across all aspects of the organisation.   Look beyond the software development area of the business and address changes across the whole range of disciplines within and outside the information technology area – such as enterprise architecture, infrastructure deployment, HR policies and so forth.  To be successful an Agile change cuts across all areas of the IT and business space.  

There are 3 C’s that drive effective Agile implementation:

  • Continuous Testing
  • Continuous Integration
  • Continuous Deployment

Without focusing on the three C’s organisations won’t get the benefits of Agile rollouts.

Michael Azoff

He referenced the session by Israel Gats on Culture.  Culture is the key – does the organisation’s culture support an Agile approach?  Understand the local organisational culture, find it’s strengths and work with those strengths to adopt an Agile culture.

Agile techniques emphasise the importance of collaboration beyond the development group – collaboration with the business, the end user community, support departments such as IT operations and Human Resources; it is vital that Agile teams build strong relationships and build trust to ensure that they are given the time that Agile needs to enable the collaboration and dialogue to happen.

Agile is not something that can be imposed on people – it needs to spread by example.  Having “evangelists” within the organisation helps – role models that people will come to for advice and guidance.

Dave West

Agile adoptions are most successful when there is a reason to adopt – in response to internal or external changes and the software development group needs to adapt to delivering faster, delivering innovation and focusing on value.   When there is a compelling reason then the organisation can address some key issues to make Agile stick:

·         Make Teams Work – most organisations talk about teams, but don’t actually work in teams.  People are measured on their individual activities (number of requirements, lines of code, number of test cases, etc); to have people working as a team, they need to be measured as a team – create a culture that facilitates and enables teams.

·         Figure out how to really align what the development teams are building with what the business really needs.  He says “you can do great Agile and build rubbish for the business - we build lots and lots of really good mousetraps, when the problem is you have a bad case of the elephants, and mousetraps aren’t successful with elephants”.

·         Bring in lean thinking (reducing waste, increasing value, transparency…) at the highest level in the organisation creates an environment where effective teams and alignment emerge naturally.

Melinda Ballou

Agile has been very successful in environments where organisations are struggling to be dynamic and responsive to competitive situations, where there is a very clear need to make a transition.  It is important that there is significant intrinsic need within the organisation, so the Agile changes will stick.  There has to be readiness and an understanding of the needs that are driving the transition to Agile.

A focus on communication across the whole team, business people and the technical people talking freely and openly creates alignment.

Managing the disparate pieces that need to be pulled together for an Agile adoption.  The largest barriers at an enterprise level is the fear of chaos, so it is important to put structures in place that pull the pieces together and show the benefits of Agile changes – faster time to market, better quality etc.  Making the benefits visible establish good grounding for successful adoption across the organisation as a whole.


A question from the audience was addressed next: where is Agile in the technology adoption cycle – has Agile actually crossed the chasm?

Dave West

It depends on the industry and organisation – different industry sectors are at different points in the technology adoption curve.  The ISV sector has completely crossed the chasm – in that space Agile is now mainstream and is probably reaching a plateau; Agile is a natural fit to the needs of the ISV community. 

Other communities have a long way to go – heavily regulated industries are far behind, government is surprisingly ahead in some areas and behind in others, the pharmaceutical industry is in the early stage, financial services further ahead.  It depends on the industry you are looking at.

Melinda Ballou

It is an evolutionary process.  The financial crisis of the last year has been a strong driver to doing more with less, and this has been a very strong driver for the Agile takeup in many organisations.   It has crossed the chasm, but there is lots of room for more growth.

Michael Azoff

COE’s are demanding of their organisations that “we need to be Agile” – it now has traction and will not fall down the adoption chasm, the future is further growth and is now in the Early Adopter phase, and is part of the mix of choices for many organisations today – less waterfall, more iterative, more mixed, more hybrid, more Agile.

David Norton

There are a vast range of organisations out there that are adopting Agile, for some it is an easy adoption, for others it is like turning an oil tanker.   71% or organisations have adopted agile, but only 15-20% have adopted it in a measurable way.  For some it is a case of rebranding existing bad practices (“we used to be bad at documentation, now we’re Agile and don’t do documentation”) as Agile without actually making changes.


Jim Newkirk then asked the panellists to each give one scenario where they recommend not adopting Agile

Michael Azoff

Where requirements are fixed and will not change then Agile is not going to deliver cheaper.  Irrespective of this, any process will benefit from applying some of the Agile practices, such as bringing testing upstream. 

Dave West

Remember that should & can are not the same thing.  Where you have a very well known technology platform, with a very well known requirements and a very well known team then the benefits of Agile will be less than where you need to manage many unknowns. 

There are also some situations where an Agile adoption has no chance of success – sometimes the organisational environment and culture simply won’t allow it to happen.  If you haven’t got a team culture, if you haven’t got a connection with the business, if you haven’t got a willingness to take on the Agile values, if you’ve not got the willingness to accept a slight overhead, if you’ve not got the tools and technology to support Agile, it is probably best not to even try – go and get a job somewhere else.

Melinda Ballou

You need structures and links for the organisation to be successful with an Agile adoption.   Agile works best where the organisation is most dynamic.  Where the culture doesn’t fit, where the executives are not ready rather don’t attempt a full Agile makeover – rather use some of the capabilities and techniques and migrate the cultural change slowly.   Don’t adopt Agile just because it’s fashionable – ensure there is a clear business need to make the change.

If you can see that Agile is going to fail – don’t do it!

David Norton

There are some cultures where Agile simply will not be able to work – places where the business people leave when IT walk into the room, places where processes haven’t changed in 20+ years. 

Many organisations are adopting hybrid approaches – taking on the practices incrementally and growing into an Agile culture from the ground up.


 A questioner from the audience asked is there room for Agile outside of software development (for instance in imbedded devices)

David Norton

Agile in imbedded systems organisations has been very successful in many organisations today. 

Dave West

Agile works in imbedded environments (he gave the example of Boeing Space Systems), but it does require some sophistication and additional practices around the use of tools and abstraction techniques.   He gave an example of how an organisation that is building imbedded systems was able to identify and resolve a problem with the hardware/software interface early because of the use of continuous integration. 

 Melinda Ballou

They are seeing the takeup of Agile and integration with product lifecycle management in imbedded systems organisations.  Teams are finding ways to bring the benefits of Agile around quality and time to market to product development organisations.   

David Norton

In the imbedded world the use of software products is growing exponentially and these organisations are grappling with the problems that pure-software organisations have been dealing with that drove the uptake of Agile techniques, and as a consequence we see the uptake of Agile in the embedded environment being a major growth area.


 A follow up question asked why Lean manufacturing principles were not taken up by the embedded systems providers as Lean came out of the manufacturing world

Dave West

In manufacturing environments there is a push to get the IT groups to work better with the product development teams.  IT traditionally didn’t embrace the Lean principles and were seen as hindrance to the Lean transformations in manufacturing organisations.  The Lean manufacturing groups have been frustrated because of the cumbersome IT processes that have been used in many environments. It is only now that Agile has come onto the IT radar that the sensible Lean techniques are spreading into the IT groups. 

David Norton

The manufacturing quality improvements such as TQM went on around the IT departments, and IT held itself outside of these changes and improvements.  Lean comes from a manufacturing background, and Agile is software development grass-roots, and they have evolved independently until recently.

Melinda Ballou

Given the increasing importance of software in manufactured products and the high human costs from poorly performing software in imbedded systems, there will be an increasing an evolution as Agile techniques provide a confluence across hardware and software development.


A question came from the audience: How do we get CxO level managers to understand the importance of the disciplines and rigor surrounding Agile as opposed to simply hearing “agile” and expecting changes from their team without investment in changing engineering and people practices.  

 David Norton

There have been many implementations where the impetus for an Agile change comes because the “CEO heard about it on a flight back from London” but the organisation has immature engineering and people practices.  There needs to be an education exercise to bring the C-level management to a realisation of the importance and value of making the cultural and engineering practice changes that are needed to implement Agile.

Dave West

At the Cx level it sometimes requires that the software development leadership acknowledge that the way they have been working hasn’t been successful (or even that they’ve been lying about project progress).   Leadership needs to understand that the way projects have been governed and implemented has forced this behaviour and the “old way” of building software products has not worked and will not work in the future.  Software is now crucial to the development of most products and services in the economy today.  15-20% of the R&D cost of the modern automobile is now spent on software – the new Mercedes S Class has over 20 Million lines of code in it’s navigation and entertainment system alone.

Michael Azoff

Executives need to understand that the ways we have been working hasn’t delivered value.   Emphasise the business value – getting products to market faster, earning value earlier, responding to customer needs.  Executives do not want (nor do the need) to know “what a Scrummaster does” – they want to know what the business value is that will be generated as a result of adopting the new process.

Melinda Ballou

The history of software failures is important in helping executives understand the value of Agile.   Organisations have spent multi-millions of dollars and much time building products that turn out to be irrelevant to their customers.  Focus the Agile discussion on fast turnaround – delivering the most important piece of business value quickly, and allowing the project to adapt to rapid changes in the marketplace.   This gives the organisation the ability to be responsive and quickly create value.  These are the things that resonate most with executives and that drive an Agile adoption from the top down, allowing the effective investment in the organisational and cultural changes that are essential for Agile adoption.  Organisations make the investment based on the value that is made.

Dave West

These changes require that organisations take a long-term perspective, there is an upfront investment required to deliver this value.  The perspective of “get something out the door quickly” and quality doesn’t matter is challenged, and in some ways the financial crisis has helped because people don’t move jobs so quickly (“I’d better build it well because I’ll have to be around to support it”).

David Norton

Agile enables organisations to focus on value rather than cost – they are able to see software development as an investment in the future rather than an immediate sunk cost. 


The next question asked “What is the future of CMMi?”

Dave West

The SEI have published a paper talking about the future of CMMi that talks about the need to be more agile, and more ITIL but the details are not yet available.  CMMi is not going away, and it will change significantly, but what shape that future will take is unknown at this point.

David Norton

The area of CMMi that gets all the press is the Staged Version, which talks about the maturity levels.  Behind the scenes there is a continuous improvement focus that looks at the practices and techniques, and it is in this area that the CMMi will grow and change. 

Michael Azoff

CMMi is about telling you what you should do from a process perspective, not telling you how to do it.  There is a healthy exchange between CMMi and the Agile community at the enterprise and very large scale area where there will be a healthy intersect between Agile at scale and CMMi.

Dave West

The world would not miss CMMi if it went away, but it is probably not likely to go away.

David Norton

The  largest area of conflict with Agile is not CMMi, but with ITIL – ITIL imposes restrictive practices in change and release management that do not fit well with Agile approaches. 

Dave West

This is where Agile leaders should be engaging – working with the ITIL teams to identify ways to change the ITIL approaches to work well with Agile practices.

Melinda Ballou

There are opportunities to engage with ITIL and identify common ground and adaptive approaches that meet the organisational needs and still embrace the Agile adaptability. 

Both CMMi and ITIL standards need to be applied with common sense – build on the best of what we have, and pull in the other pieces to create a synergistic whole that delivers maximum organisational value.


 The next question dealt with Usability:  We have a very mature Agile implementation – how do we integrate useability into the Agile development process?

Michael Azoff

This addresses the broader area of incorporating business process modelling and techniques such as whiteboarding utilisation, and that is a fruitful area for further growth.  It ties in well with the push towards understanding what the customer wants  and there is opportunity for tools support and pushing the Agile practices into business process management.

Dave West

Design agencies don’t like Agile methods, they want to define the whole UI and all the interactions up front, and Agile teams are resistant to that type of up-front work.  New-media implementations put pressure on traditional design groups because of the looseness that mash-ups and collaborative toolsets allow in the UI area.  We are seeing a lot of work going on trying to bring Agile approaches and classical design approaches together.

The UX designer is an increasingly important role, which needs to become imbedded into Agile teams – the creative, interaction designer will bring a multitude of new and innovative ideas that will add value to the Agile project.  It is best achieved by making the person with UX skills a part of the team, rather than an external expert who is consulted occasionally.

Melinda Ballou

By including User Experience and Ergonomics skills into Agile teams we see a decrease in chaos, and fundamentally better customer/user experiences from the products being built.   There is an opportunity to combine experience/interface design with the iterative development world.


The final audience question covered “what do you think are the challenges of Agile development with distributed teams and how are they going to be addressed?”

David Norton

It is vital to enable distributed teams to communicate easily and collaborate effectively.  This is one areas where tooling becomes really important – organisations with distributed teams need to invest tools that will allow constant communication and knowledge sharing.

It is also necessary to invest in creating a shared culture, there must be a feeling of being a single team, not “the Indian team” and “the Dutch team”, it’s “the team” whose members happen to be spread across a number of locations – one organisation has gone to the extent of making sure that the furniture and wall coverings are the same in all of their distributed spaces to help create this common feeling and build the team spirit.

With distributed Agile projects you need to accept that there will be a need to travel – spending the time and money to create the shared culture will pay dividends in faster development with less problems.  Watch out for the clues about losing team cohesion – the tone of emails, comments about “it was them” and so forth, and when that starts to happen bring the team together to reform bonds.

Michael Azoff

Cutting the travel budget is going to end up being more expensive.  You can use technology to enable communication but face to face contact is crucial.  Distributed groups could have ambassadors who travel from place to place and get to know all the team members, but face to face contact is needed to foster team spirit and build productivity.

Dave West

Technology can help but face to face is needed to create intimacy – video conferencing helps, but where the timezone difference is such that there is little or no overlap of working time then it becomes really, really hard.  Someone is getting out of bed for the 4:00am to have a meeting, which is simply not sustainable.  Nearshoring is much more effective where timezones overlap, in this case the collaboration and video conferencing tools help tremendously.  Ideally keep people together where possible and be prepared to travel.

Melinda Ballou

As far as possible keep distributed teams within roughly the same timezones so they can communicate relatively easily.  Distributed teams are difficult, it is very important to ensure that there is on-site time where the team members get the opportunity to create a shared culture and understanding. 


Wrapping Up – each panelist was asked to make a final comment summarising their thoughts on the state of Agile.

David Norton

The Agile movement has tremendous passion, and has made great strides.  The Agile community may be experiencing some “teenage angst” as we learn about scaling up Agile and moving into larger enterprises.  It is important to ensure that we do not lose the passion and the essence of Agile.

Michael Azoff

Amazing turnout to the conference which is proof that Agile is now in the mainstream.  It is very apparent looking at the audience of this conference and comparing it with say TechEd how the gender balance is so different, with a far less male-dominated audience at the Agile conferences.  Agile is a far more humanising activity and a more normal activity than traditional technical practices.

Dave West

The energy, passion and belief of the Agile community is affirming and energising.  The community is expanding and incorporating diverse groups – “it’s more like a design shop every day“and that’s great.

One area of concern is the absence of an executive track in the conference, the conference needs to address the challenges of the PMO and executives in Agile organisations, include operations and support tracks and embrace the wider IT community beyond software development.

The participants at the conference make this conference special – the passion and enthusiasm and the willingness to share with each other in the sessions and in the corridors.

Melinda Ballou

It’s great to hear the experiences of the participants.  This conference, and Agile in general, is an opportunity for human beings to communicate more effectively with each other.  This conference opens many communication channels and creates a place to share experiences.  I’m looking forward to the evolution of Agile in the areas that it is currently working in, and across the end-to-end lifecycle within organisations. 

An area of future growth will be understanding how social media will impact organisations and Agile is poised to take advantage of that.  It is also important to extend the conference to include the decision makers and executives.

The session ended with the suggestion by Dave West that participants “bring your boss” to next year’s conference and a suggestion that the conference organisers enable that by incorporating an executive track in the next Agile conference.


Have the analysts got it right?  Where is Agile now and where are we headed in the future?

 

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Automated Deployment by XebiaLabs XebiaLabs

I agree with David Norton’s 3 C’s, because it’s true that implementing Agile methods involves revamping the architecture of a company. David’s mention of continuous deployment is a reminder of how automated deployment can help in an Agile environment. As more development teams embrace Agile practices, operations teams need to embrace deployment through automation in order to keep up with frequent deliverables. I see that you mention lean manufacturing, but did the roundtable discuss how automation is part of the lean architecture principles?

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