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Agile Delivery (Part 2) – It’s Child’s Play

Continuing the The Agile Manifesto's last 7 guiding statements regarded as the cornerstone of agile..

Paul M 30 December 2013

Continuing the The Agile Manifesto's last 7 guiding statements regarded as the cornerstone of agile..

Principle 7: Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Salsa score 8/10. The Salsa governance and communication strategy for the project consisted of a dashboard for stories (functions) completed and a projection date, based on current velocity, of finishing all the stories for a phase. This was presented weekly at the project steering committee. This was effective in providing a level of comfort to senior business stakeholders. Having said that, far more feedback, requirements validation and project momentum was generated by releasing working versions of the system to trial by real users in full dress rehearsal. So serious were the ‘trials’ taken that the SLA incumbent on the scheme were treated per full production mode.

...We recently renovated our house providing a huge bank of built in wardrobes in my daughter’s room. Great for putting things away, toys, clothes etc, etc also convenient/easy for messing things up as well. Sometimes i think her measure of success in “dress ups” is not so much to create the ultimate costume, best fairy or whatever, but rather to ensure every combination of items is tried creating as big a mess as possible. I’ve even seen a fairy in swimming flippers and footy scarf!

Principle 8: Agile processes promote sustainable development.The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Salsa score 5/10. I’m personally less sold on this principle. I think everything has to go right for total cohesion between all facets of the program/project. Of course it is what we all strive for, and agile approaches no doubt assist in facilitation of such, however I’ve seen my fair share of traditional and agile projects suffer schedule pressure. Key with the Salsa Mega Project was the milestones/pace was acceptable to all parties and constantly communicated.

...my daughter has two paces: flatout and sleeping.

Principle 9: Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Salsa Score 8/10. The Salsa Mega Project strived as much as practical for technical excellence and good design. Some of the methods used included, for example, the iPhone data collection application was initially rapid prototyped (intentionally throw-away in fact) using a quick and dirty iPhone app building library. This allowed very quick evaluation of the interface by the business and enabled a robust build to follow using iPhone native xCode. AWS (Amazon Web Services) were employed to build a scalable platform architecture in the cloud. Most importantly, and key to this principle, AWS allowed the platform to easily be ramped up and down in terms of servers and services tuning the solution in terms of its operational cost. Investing upfront in a well resolved solution design allowed very rapid system changes down the track. We were able to be agile because of investment in technical excellence, not in spite of it.

...I asked my daughter what agile meant. While we needed to talk about the concept for a bit, we eventually settled on her gymnastics makes her agile. ..Oh, and Easter bunny and Santa’s reindeer must be really agile and Santa’s sleigh well designed and technically excellent.

Principle 10: Simplicity - the art of maximizing the amount of work not done - is essential.

Salsa Score 8/10. Key in maximizing the amount of work not done in the Salsa Mega Project were investing in the production of test cases as early as possible (in parallel with build in many instances) and the investment in an appropriately detailed functional specification. The detail of our functional specification may have been more than what may have been expected from other agile projects employing low documentation modes, however it was essential for us when the complexity of business rules were considered. Test case production, and test acceptance criteria depended on clear, and formalised, expected outcomes per user story (use case). Without such documentation the amount of unnecessary work exponentially explodes through build, test, acceptance, and fix-up.

...To my daughter, work not done generally is that which she can convince adults to do for her. Cleaning up is a prime example. Trouble is I generally fall for it.

Principle 11: The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.

Salsa Score 7/10. Key in Salsa’s approach to self organisation was a clear list of tasks/stories per iteration. A physical wall of story cards being employed, organised into columns, with each the responsibility of a team member. Cards start in backlog and traverse through build, developer showcase, testing, acceptance and release. Swapping of duties and general teamwork and shared vision is greatly enhanced by these basic, but effective, techniques. The team self organises.

...my daughter is self-organising. Emerging from her is a special form of organised chaos!

Principle 12: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

Salsa Score 8/10. Reflection/review in Salsa process includes developer showcase, iteration retrospective and phase sunset review. Each of these process steps provides a forum for constructive comment to allow tweaks to process and tools and to ensure beneficial behaviour is repeated/embedded. Developer showcase was a process step introduced that mandated each developer demonstrates their story to a QA team representative before developer hands over their work to test. Iteration retrospective looks to review the iteration in terms of that executed from that planned. Sunset review is similar however is conducted in blocks of approximately every six months (at end of phase).

...Given it is 10 days before Xmas as I author this blog, it seems fitting to make the comment that my daughter’s self assessment seems to coincide each year with Xmas. She seems perfectly willing to take the chance Santa may not be watching her too closely through the months of January to November despite me suggesting otherwise. I’m sure, not unlike most kids aged five or less, she’s on perfect behaviour Xmas Eve and hopes that’ll be good enough. Luckily for her, it is.

The Results

In summary, Salsa’s process seems to stack up pretty well to the original agile “12 commandments”’. Certainly the successful delivery of a project the size of the Salsa Mega Project says Salsa is doing something right.

...Barring that, I’ll just apply my Daughter’s approach and be supremely confident that some combination of Santa, the Easter Bunny or a pink unicorn solves any issue.

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