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

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:

Read More

"Earning" earned value by Ivar Jacobson

Traditional project management approaches focus on planning in detail, assigning the resulting tasks to people and then tracking "progress" as measured by completed tasks. The problem with measuring progress this way is that completing a task, while important, is hard to correlate with progress against the overall goal - just because you've completed 20% of the tasks does not mean that you're 20% done - and for tasks that take a long time to complete the self-reported estimates of "percent complete" is often merely "wishful thinking".

My preference is to measure progress in a concrete and measurable way - in the form of tested scenarios, following an iterative project management approach.  In other words, planning works iteration by iteration, with each iteration developing and testing one or more scenarios.  At the end of each iteration, you have a set of developed and tested scenarios, making progress easier to measure: knowing that you've developed and tested 20 out of 100 scenarios is a lot more meaningful than knowing that you've completed 20% of the tasks - especially if those tasks are focused on creating documentation rather than running and tested code.  Scenarios correlate nicely with business value - each scenario should be useful to at least some subset of the stakeholders.  In my view, only when you've successfully tested a scenario can you claim to have "earned value".

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