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Attitudes Regarding Iterative Software Development Planning and Measuring

Attitudes Regarding Iterative Software Development Planning and MeasuringNowhere is the change in values of iterative development planning and measuring more important than in the management team. If the project is to iterate successfully, it must be managed iteratively.

The project manager must believe that an iterative approach is the best way to manage the project and must be prepared to set aside any inflexible, predictive, waterfall management practices that have been used before. This doesn’t mean that you should throw away all the good management practices and experiences you have built up over the years; good, disciplined project management is essential to the effective application of iterative development techniques. It is just that you must put aside some of the conventional wisdom about planning to give yourself the freedom to fully exploit the flexibility and power of the iterative approach.

The conventional approach to planning is prescriptive, based on the assumptions that the work which needs to be done can be predicted with great precision and that the unusual rarely occurs. This is true for many things—building a bridge over a highway or a standard family dwelling or a prefabricated commercial building, for example. These engineering efforts are technically predictable, and planning this kind of work is based on hundreds of years of experience. This experience has given rise to the generic project lifecycle in which the different types of project activities are aligned to the single phase that bears their name (i.e. Requirements, Analysis, Design, Code, Test and Deploy). Read More

Attitude Regarding Teamwork and Collaboration

Iterative projects often require fundamental changes to the way team members work on a project. On a traditional project, it is easy to avoid really working together as a team. Everyone tends to have their own specialty and deliverables, and it is easy for a person to work in isolation and only interact with other people by passing documents around.

Successful iteration is very different, and requires a very interactive, collaborative way of working, involving:

  • Commitment - The whole team (including business representative participants) needs to be committed to making the project a success. This doesn’t have to mean working long hours or promising more than can be delivered; it means just doing whatever it takes to work as a team and meet the iteration’s objectives.
  • Focus - The team needs to keep focused on the iteration’s short-term objectives and not get sidetracked by other issues or activities. This is particularly true of the management team members, who need to stick to the iteration’s set of objectives after they have been set and agreed to with the team. The time to change the project’s direction is between the iterations, not during them. Read More

Stimulating a discussion: Getting to needs

Stimulating a discussion: Getting to needsOne of the frequent questions we are asked is "how can I get the time to explore needs when the business says that it is already done - "it's in the business case", even when it is obviously not complete?  This is actually a pretty common occurrence - nobody wants to take time to understand needs because they think it has already been done. Read More

Attitudes regarding risk and change

Attitudes regarding risk and changeMost project management approaches address risk in a fairly superficial way: risk mitigation is viewed as an important activity, but one that is largely a distraction from the main effort of the project. Risks are identified at the start of the project, they are usually assiged to someone to address the risks, but these risk-mitigation activities are largely viewed as things that take away from the project work. In practice the risks are only identified once and then they are largely forgotten in the large amount of work to be done.

On a traditional project, change is viewed as a bad thing, and great efforts are undertaken to prevent it. Change disrupts the original plan, and it is the plan (and not value delivery) that is sacrosanct on a Traditional project.

Similarly, change must be embraced. Change results from new information, from feedback that something in the original plan will not result in the desired end result. Change is something that will occur as people get new information, but change is a good thing: it means convergence on the right solution. Read More

Attitudes Toward Delivering Business Value

Traditional software development projects are executed in a value-neutral setting in which:

  • Every requirement is treated as equally important
  • The delivery of technical components is seen as of equal importance to the delivery of usable systems
  • "Earned value" systems track project cost and schedule, not stakeholder or business value
  • A "separation of concerns" is practiced, in which the responsibility of the development team is confined to turning software requirements into verified code rather than delivering business value
  • The actual desired outcomes of the project are ignored in favor of implementing the largest number of requirements possible

No wonder so many projects fail to deliver the desired business results! Unfortunately this includes many iterative software development projects where the developers iteratively implement the requirements rather than delivering business value. Any management system that rewards things that are easily measured (like implementing requirements) without a clear and direct tie to business value delivered is headed down the wrong path. Read More

Are you ready for iterative development?

Are you ready for iterative development?Iterative development is simple in concept: it is simply breaking a large project down into a series of smaller projects that deliver value in smaller steps. The hard thing about adopting it is that it requires the project team members and stakeholders to adopt a new set of attitudes and behaviors about how they work together to achieve a common goal. This requires subtle but significant changes on the part of all participants, especially if they have been working on conventional projects for many years. In short, these changes include the following:

A new attitude is required regarding the way that projects deliver business value. The project team must start to focus on delivering immediate and realizable value back to the business.

A new attitude is required toward uncertainty and change: teams must recognize that change happens and there are always uncertainties, so in order to be successful they must purposefully work to manage change and reduce uncertainties. Read More

Each Iteration Results in a “Release”

To ensure that the project is making progress, each iteration is forced to produce something tangible: a “release.” This release can be:

  • A prototype that is used to demonstrate some specific capability
  • An “internal” release that is used to elicit feedback and that serves as the basis for further development and testing
  • An “external” release that is shipped to customers in some form

The following is our definition of release:

Release: A stable and executable version of a system.

The production of something executable during each and every iteration is so important to the iterative approach that some people even go as far as to assert that “The goal of an iteration is an iteration release: a stable, integrated and tested, partially complete system.” Read More

An Iteration Has a Distinct Set of Activities

An Iteration Has a Distinct Set of ActivitiesEach iteration is unique. It involves undertaking a unique set of activities to produce a unique version of the product that objectively demonstrates that the iteration objectives have been met.

Because of this uniqueness, each iteration requires its own iteration plan. The iteration plan contains the details of all the activities that the team is required to do to meet the iteration objectives. The amount and style of activity-level planning required for a project is dependent on many factors including the project risk, team size, experience levels, and the manager’s own preferred management style.

For some projects, an informal plan describing the goals to be achieved and listing the tasks to be undertaken is sufficient; you can leave the scheduling and allocation of the activities to the development team. Other projects require more comprehensive plans that describe the activities and their allocation in greater detail to work out the dependencies between the tasks to be performed by the various team members. Read More

What is an Iteration?

What is an Iteration?

Iteration: A self-contained mini-project, with a well-defined outcome: a stable, integrated, and tested “release”. Let’s look at the three aspects of this definition in more detail.

A software development project produces a new release of a software product by transforming a set of users’ requirements into a new or changed software product. With an iterative and incremental approach, this process is completed little by little, step by step, by splitting the overall project into several mini-projects, each of which is called an iteration.

From the perspective of the development team, each iteration can be considered to be a self-contained
project. This approach is very powerful because it enables the development team members to focus on meeting their immediate objectives and ensures that the results generated are frequently and objectively measured. The management team needs to ensure that the iteration objectives form
a credible part of the larger overall project.

The management team needs to reinforce this way of working by ensuring that each iteration has the following:

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