Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Choo-Choo Challenge: When will the Agile Release Train Reach the Depot?

Michelle Hochstetler, NWEA
Thursday, February 12, 2015 @ 11:10

Software is developed to meet the demands of the Business Stakeholders.  Often these demands come with a date and constraints that ask for delivery on a specific timeline.  Agile is meant to be an adaptive, iterative software release process that often occurs on a more frequent cadence than the Business demands.

It's like an old school, story problem: if we have two trains heading toward a destination, how can we predict when the trains will get there?  How can we predict when the Release will be finished so that Business Stakeholders can plan accordingly?

The group identified a number of activities that both sides can do to meet in the middle:

Agile Scrum Teams
  • Make the release cadence predictive
  • Employ change management
  • Take advantage of feature switches
  • Work to share the benefit of smaller, more frequent releases with the Business
  • Product Owners and Product Management serve as advocates for the work
  • Use techniques to get the software in front of the Business more often:
    • Host Sprint Demos with the right Stakeholders
    • Record Videos of Features & Functionality
    • Use Demo Environments
Business Stakeholders:
  • Create a prioritized list of work with expectations that lower priority items are less likely to be delivered
  • Understand that the scope of the work cannot be fixed
  • Constantly prioritize and shift the work to account for the unexpected
  • Build a buffer/slack into the schedule
  • Agree to accept the work that is completed

For Agile to be successful, there needs to be a culture of understanding and flexibility across the organization.  It is the responsibility of Agile Scrum teams to make progress visible.  It is the responsibility of the Business Stakeholders to know the progress.  Agile Software Companies must understand and agree that you can only live up to two of the three following principles: predictable, responsive, efficient.

Agile Scrum Teams and Business Stakeholders must:
  • Share Alignment
  • Share Responsibility
  • Collaborate
  • Communicate

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