The Kernel Journals 8: A little help here!

The Kernel Journals 8: A little help here!In the previous kernel journals we have looked at the many practical applications of a process kernel that is based on the key software development entities (known as Alphas) that software projects add value to by progressing through their value states. We have seen that there are many advantages to separating these “whats” (progressions) that we are trying to achieve, from the many possible “hows” (software processes and practices) that describe how we might achieve and evidence these progressions, including the ability to set objectives and track progress in a common and consistent way irrespective of what specific practices a project happens to adopt.

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Let’s measure the things that really matter

Let’s measure the things that really matterAs technologists, we tend to collect very detailed information and present it in a very technical way.  We talk about things like process maturity levels, and productivity indexes. I have even seen some measurement data about Agile maturity models that attempt to show how agile we are.  The problem with this kind of approach is it doesn’t provide anything that the business and the customers can relate to. 

The business does not really care how agile we are, they want to see results.  They want to be able to set targets, see improvements, and understand the benefits and the quality of the results being generated by IT. Only then can they begin to put the value of Agility into context – the context of the value and improvement generated by the move to agility. 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

More accurate requirements: when process is lost

More accurate requirements: when process is lostOver the last few days a number of people have asked me the same question: “How can we get more accurate requirements?” While I agree it is not nice to answer a question with a question, in this case you might bend etiquette a bit because in reality this question can be hard to answer. For example, why is it necessary and which problem does it solve? Or, what exactly do you mean with accurate?  And do you have accurate requirements and you want more of those? And in that case, more than what? Or do you have inaccurate requirements which you want to become more accurate? And if so, how much more?

You might say: “Hey, that’s just playing with words”. Well, that’s right and so is writing and communicating requirements. In order to get accurate requirements you need a number of things. However, an often overlooked element to writing accurate requirements is understanding the structure of language and how language is perceived. 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

De wereld van Practices – Wat is een Practice?

De wereld van Practices   Wat is een Practice?Bij IJI staan we een practice-gedreven aanpak voor. Zoals met veel concepten en principes geldt ook hier dat een goed begrip van wat ermee wordt bedoeld essentieel is om er echt de vruchten van te plukken. Een manier om daar invulling aan te geven is om te kijken naar criteria waaraan je een goede practice kunt herkennen. Maar voor we dat doen, is het goed om eerst te kijken naar de definitie en kenmerken van een practice en een practice-gedreven aanpak.

Onder een practice-gedreven aanpak verstaan we onder meer “het samenstellen van een effectieve manier van werken op basis van relevante procescomponenten”. In plaats van moeizaam te proberen een procesraamwerk toe te snijden op een specifiek project draaien we het om; we selecteren alleen relevante procescomponenten en assembleren die tot een consistent proces. En zo’n procescomponent noemen we dan een practice. Use Cases, User Stories en Iteratief ontwikkelen zijn enkele voorbeelden van practices. Andere voorbeelden zijn Operationaliseren Systeem en Datamigratie. In deze context is het ultieme doel van een practice-gedreven aanpak “betere resultaten boeken met softwareontwikkeling”. Hierbij kun je dan denken aan betere software, goedkoper, sneller en een prettigere manier van werken. Read More

The Kernel Journals 7: SatNav for Software Development Projects

In the last Kernel Journal we looked at the problem that Barry Boehm was aiming to solve back in 1995 when he first proposed his three standard process milestones (which later gained industry prominence as the milestones in the Unified Software Development Process and the Rational Unified Process), namely that “the proliferation of software process models provides flexibility”, but leaves us “with no common anchor points around which to plan and control.” [Barry Boehm, November 1995]. We looked at how a small set of domain entities with simple state progression models (which we call “Alphas”) can make these common anchor points much more practical and useful while ensuring that they remain process-neutral and do not become “document-driven”.

The alphas, when used with common milestones such as the Unified Process Milestones, can actually give us much more than this – they can provide a project status and health dashboard that can be used by the customer and supplier organizations to assess the current status and health of any / all projects, irrespective of which processes or practices they are following. The graphic below shows just such a dashboard, with a set of kernel alphas and a traffic-light status for each alpha, which is derived by comparing where the project is now (the state machine to the left of each traffic light) with where it needs to be to achieve the next project milestone (the state machine to the right of each traffic light).The Kernel Journals 7: SatNav for Software Development Projects

In Kernel Journal 5: “Making the Invisible Visible” I described how we can easily “skin” a process kernel, by providing a portal for projects to capture, share and agree the essential project information that is needed to achieve each state progression (for example, using a set of templated Wiki pages). Once we have done this, we can make the alpha dashboard much more useful to the project teams themselves, by flagging which sections of the project portal need to be updated and agreed to get the project to where it needs to go next.

This gives us the equivalent of a Satellite Navigation System for our software projects project that enables us to:

  • Set our journey destination and waypoints (milestones)
  • Track where we are now, compared to where we want to be
  • Get guidance on what to do next in order to progress towards our destination.


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

The Kernel Journals 6: Where to (first/next)?

The Kernel Journals 6: Where to (first/next)?We all know that we want to “cut to the chase” as soon as we can and start incrementally developing the software product through which we deliver value back to the business. But we also know that there are certain essential pre-requisites to “sprinting”, such as some kind of vision of where we are supposed to be going and the right team and tools to get us there. If we start motoring before we are ready we may head off in the wrong direction or we may find that the wheels come off as we accelerate through the gears. 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

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