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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Dave West Discusses Evolving from RUP to Agile and how Tasktop Connects Agile with the PMO

Dave West Discusses Evolving from RUP to Agile and how Tasktop Connects Agile with the PMO


1. Hi everyone, my name is Todd Charron, I’m an Agile News Editor here at InfoQ and today I’m joined by Dave West of Tasktop. To get started, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, m name is David West, as you can tell from my accent I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, this is the original Boston accent I like to say. I’m chief project officer at Tasktop. Tasktop’s mission is to connect the world of software delivery and I run the product side of the business, so engineering and product management etc. Former analyst I was at Forrester research and then back in a previous life I developed something called The Rational Unified Process. Now currently in the Agile Community the word RUP is used to scare small children and to use whenever you are saying what is wrong with the world of software development.


2. All right, is there any particular reason you think why that is?

I think that it’s easy to bash the previous sort of regime, isn't it? But seriously I think that the Rational Unified Process came out of the need for a most structured way of building software and it was the defacto standard for a number of years, lot’s of the terms that we use in software such as Use case, Component, Object, etc, was very much driven from that process but life changes. The finite resources that we had in those days was not the same finite resources in problems that we are trying to solve now, it was designed around when actually computer time was a premium when getting the right design before the code was more important than anything, so I think it solved a very different set of problems and I think the world has moved on. I do think that provides a foundation for a lot of the principles that we use today.

I think our industry in general is always trying to evolve and always trying to get better, now Agile makes that a first class citizen. We in the Agile Community, and I consider myself part of the Agile Community, are always trying to learn, the Agile 2013 is the greatest book club in America some would say for technology books, I don’t know about you Todd but how many elevator rides have I found a new book that I want to buy and I want to read and will fill my iPad or my Kindle later this year, but I think that desire to always improve is at the heart of what Agility is about and I think that RUP was a moment in time I think we continue to improve on that and we will continue to improve on that.


3. What in particular brings you to Agile 2013?

Tasktop is a big fan of Agile, you see we build software in an Agile way but at this conference we’ve had two press announcements that I think I’d like to use as the back drop to some of the great ideas that the Agile 2013 conference is talking about. The first press release was the announcement that we've extended our partner program with another OEM, the OEM of Serena. Now you might say tools sounds a little bit awful but I think that this is a great example of the fact that Agile has to come of age. The only way you scale Agile is using automation, the only way that you automate is by tools, so ultimately this announcement and I think the Agile community is now accepting, that you’ve got to now connect your end to end life cycle and that is going to require you to connect tools, you are going to connect your SPM, your Serena, your HPQC, your RallyDev, your TFS, your Clarity, portfolio management tools.

You know the bottom line is that Agility as it comes of age is about optimizing not just the team but the end to end value chain, and I think that the announcement is illustrative of that, I think it's illustrative of this need for an end to end tools ecosystem working together in perfect harmony in the context of your Agile or Lean process. The second announcement which is really something very much focused on the integration of PPM with the Agile Project Management and ALM, Application Lifecycle Management, so we announce the extension to the ability to connect Clarity which is a PPM tool, the market leading PPM tool, with Agile and planning tools and software development and test tools. The reason why that is so interesting is that the PMO and the Agile Team there is always been a healthy tension, healthy is one way of describing it and I think healthy is perhaps an understatement, I think there is been a lot of distress and dare I say almost hatred between those organizations.

Agile Teams work in a very different way from how traditional PMO’s work. Now PMO’s have a very worthy mission, they're there to ensure that the investments that the organization is making are being correctly made and then ensuring that they continue the status of those investments is appropriate, those investments tend to be time, material, etc. Now that investment model is very contrary to how Agile Teams work where you got a Backlog of work, you pick the highest business property once you work on those, you deliver that, etc. By building a bridge which is what Tasktop has done between the Clarity World and the Agile World or the Development World, you actually then start helping, get information across those very different life cycles. Now obviously if we look at SAFe and some of the methodologies they would encourage you to change the process around that to encourage that unification. Our experience is that delivering process and changing process is hard and that people work the way they work, even if you tell them to work differently. So our experience is that if you connect those two worlds, connect the information, so that those tasks are translated into tasks that are in the development become stories and epics, etc. And then you start capturing time against those things and bring it back into that life cycle. If you capture that information and start unifying the lexicon the data models of these two very different systems. No, you may not solve some of the methodology issues the fact that the Batch size is too large, the fact that there is too much time being spent between this stage and this stage, but you at least can see them. And it’s interesting, the first time we implemented this for a client, what we found was that the planning process was very much, worked the same it always did, they are creating these huge project plans, they were then moving into development which we were using a Scum Based model and they certainly started discovering that a lot of the stories, the work wasn’t being delivered in the teams, new ones were popping-up and being delivered before the work they originally thought they are going to be delivering.

I said hang on a minute, it was both teams were doing in the right thing but it was illustrative of the fact that Agile is all about seeing what is happening learning from that, getting new and making course correction, so nothing was wrong it was just, there was a lot of waste in the planning process that wasn’t actually being implemented, so they decided to reduce the Batch size, so they may still been wasteful they'd be less wasteful, and so they continuously worked on this model and then slowly they came around to more of an Agile Profiling Management Approach, something more akin to the work of Dean Leffingwell and the Safe model. It was interesting that it was more start with the integration than do the process when you would think it would make more sense to do it the other way around, so we announced that the integration now and it’s part of our product and which is Tasktop Sync which is an integration platform for software delivery and it’s kind of interesting that that is now driving change in organizations.


4. How is the reception been so far here?

It’s been great, it is interesting though, you say PMO it's, what the PMO? My god, it’s like saying MacBeth in a theatre which apparently you're not meant to do so don’t say it when you are in your next theatre, but what is interesting is that and then you start talking about some very good questions that the PMO asks like where should we be spending our money and if we invested more money, could we do things faster, do more stuff, and Agile Teams are like, ooh, we don’t like that, the team, and we don’t know what the velocity, past velocity is not illustrative of the future of velocity ...

I think what is done and what we found is that just by having these conversations by thinking about, by broadening the reach of Agile, like building bridges between the PMO and development we're starting to solve some of the really important questions, because frankly as much as we love Agile software development, I love it, I’m a geek, I go to Star Trek conventions, I definitely like technology for its own sake, ultimately the reason why we are doing technology is to deliver business value. Now software is the most important commodity to deliver business value in a lot of organizations now, it is a differentiator, it is the enabler but it is still because of the business, so being able to tie the business better into that software decision making process and have it there is more of a feedback Loop between the development and the business, and have a language that allows them to have those conversations about investment decisions. I think it’s crucial to our success, now by connecting the tool which has not solve all those problems, I'd be lying if I said that was the case, but we have to start solving those problems about how we invest, what sort of risk is that, if we did this what would that mean to our business, what would that mean to our technology organization, is it likely, what are the implications, what are the dependencies. We need to have that at a business level not just at a technology level and I think that has been a lot of the discussion that even if you start talking about, moving a field from a system A to a system B, you end up having a business discussion about where software fits in the business decision making an investment, decision making area, which has been kind of cool.

All right, thank you very much!

Thank you Todd!

Jan 29, 2014