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InfoQ Homepage News Building Cyber-Physical Systems with Agile: Learnings from QCon New York

Building Cyber-Physical Systems with Agile: Learnings from QCon New York

In her QCon New York 2023 talk Success Patterns for building Cyber-Physical Systems with Agile, Robin Yeman explored how we can use agile practices at scale for large initiatives with multiple teams, building cyber-physical safety-critical systems with a scope that includes software, firmware, and hardware development.

Development approaches like agile and DevOps have benefitted small initiatives with a single team-building software, Yeman said. They help them to respond to change, reduce product delivery schedules, reduce product cost, increase product quality, and increase employee morale.

Agile helps to deal with complexity, Yeman said. The motivation to migrate to agile is a demand for faster development, difficulty managing change, and increased product complexity, she argued.

We need to decompose by products instead of functions to break down systems correctly and make agile work, Yeman said. Starting with epics that focus on the business outcome, we can come up with features that are comprised of stories describing the needed functionality. Stories can be split up into tasks of no more than eight hours.

It is more expensive to make changes in hardware due to constraints of physicality, but there are tools like simulators, emulators, digital shadows, digital twins, and 3D printers that can help us to get faster feedback. Yeman suggested beginning with your digital twins, virtual replicas of physical assets, try out different scenarios. Moving physical systems into the digital space enable teams to bring down risks and decrease the cost of learning, Yeman said.

Regulatory and safety standards are not in conflict with agile, Yeman mentioned; it’s possible to comply with standards and regulatory requirements using agile. Yeman gave examples of agile and hardware like building a car with Joe Justice and the agile hardware team at Lockheed Martin that develops fleet ballistic missiles.

Yeman concluded her talk by presenting the industrial DevOps principles. Some examples of them are:

  • Organize for the Flow of Value: align your multiple product teams to enable the flow and delivery of value.
  • Architect for Speed: the use of architecture to reduce dependencies and improve the speed of change.
  • Integrate Early and Often: the different levels and types of integration points across large complex systems.
  • Apply a Growth Mindset: the need to continuously learn, innovate, and adapt to the changes around us in order to stay competitive.

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