I’ve been lingering on this story from InfoQ for a while. If agile coaches need a code of ethics…then what does that say? Is this a further sign of the agile bubble popping?
I’ve been lingering on this story from InfoQ for a while. If agile coaches need a code of ethics…then what does that say? Is this a further sign of the agile bubble popping?
If you’ve managed projects for any length of time you understand the truth. It’s almost never the case that a project is completely predictive ( waterfall ) or completely adaptive ( agile ). It’s a mix. There are needs for both in any project. Those project managers, companies, and consultancies that integrate both approaches into their project management efforts are hybridizing the agile movement and shaping the reality of the future. Let’s look at some examples that are well known, visible, historical and outside the IT market. Why? I want to defuse the agile vs waterfall debate for a moment and abstract things away from technology to help us see the broader picture.
Example 1: Lewis & Clark Expedition
The expedition by Lewis and Clark to navigate the Missouri River and map the western territories was an immense, RISKY, long term project entertained by a focused project team of professionals. This is a startup. Their goal was to map a water born ( river ) path to the Pacific Ocean. To accomplish this goal some level up front planning was required. You simply couldn’t plop two guys down in St. Louis and say: “For the next two weeks go up the Missouri River, then have a retrospective on what you learned, share that learning with your sponsor in Washington D.C. and plan for the next two weeks of river navigation.”
Lewis & Clark needed supplies, people who knew the land, logistical expertise, some plan up front to start the mission. But while an up front plan was necessary, much was not known. This is where adaptive planning comes in. They would need to adapt as maps, events, and people turned out to be unreliable or poorly understood: winters were more severe, the Missouri didn’t go all the way to the Pacific and great Mountain chain blocked their path to the ocean, and accidentally injuries and sickness delayed progress.
While not having an up front plan could have delayed and increased the cost of their project…not being able to adapt along the way would have killed it. It was an experiment, a gamble, and to make it work required flexibility and persistence.
Standish group would have called Lewis & Clark a failure because they exceeded their baseline schedule.
Example 2: Apollo missions to the moon.
The missions to land men on the moon and safely return them during the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States were massive projects of unknown risk and horrible complexity. Failure would bring down a nation and a philosophy ( democratic freedom). They closely mirror big ERP implementations or suitably large custom software development efforts in Fortune 500 businesses today.
Could these have succeeded without predictive planning? It’s hard to imagine they would have. There were so many variables and unknowns that were required to be nailed down before implementation to ensure success. In fact, predictive planning to the Nth degree is what made this possible and successful. Accounting for every risk, having a mitigation plan for every risk, and carefully coordinating all the sub-projects to the common goal would have been hard to accomplish via strict adaptive planning.
This isn’t to say that adaptive planning didn’t play a role in adjusting and dealing with risks/issues along the way ( think Apollo 13 ), but this project was almost completely predictive by necessity at the top-level. There was too much at stake ( human life and a nation’s perceived status in the world ).
Even though the Apollo moon missions proved to the world that the U.S. was the preeminent technology leader vs the U.S.S.R and would be revered for decades to come….this project, using Standish’s metrics, would have been deemed ——-> FAIL.
Example 3: Building a Table in Garage with Your Woodworking Equipment.
A more personal, and human project…building a table is something that’s been done many times in the past. This is like building a new e-commerce site for a company. It’s been done before, they could have just bought a vended product, but for some business reason they want to build their own.
Ok, since it’s been done before there’s a pattern, and we borrow from it. We download the diagram, purchase our materials, and define our plan. This is predictive. As we begin to execute we discover flaws in the plan or the procurement process. Wrong nails were purchased or the leg supports were cut too small. These events require us to adapt.
After building the table we’d dust off our hands and say “Wow, that’s a little over budget and it took some extra time, but I got what I wanted.” We’d call it a success. Standish would call it a failure.
I could go on. What about Michelangelo’s works? How about building the Dubai Tower? Great human efforts ( projects ) are vision building. Successful completion and delivery requires a range of approaches and a commitment to the end goal.
Hopefully you can visualize the adaptive *AND* predictive elements in these projects. It wasn’t one or the other. It was a gradient. That’s where the present is and the future will continue to be. Hybridization is good. It isn’t about agile vs waterfall. It’s about achievement, belief, and success.
Agile universities, certifications, agile consulting, traveling coaches, planning poker card sets, agile software products, agile modeling, agile arm bands, countless agile books and the crazed cycle of agile conferences.
The buzz cycle is in overdrive and it’s electrocuted the business world with the promise of faster, better and cheaper. This article is a plea to stop. Stop all the hype, the opportunistic profiting, and the marketing.
Good Intentions Turned Ugly
What started out as a challenge to the software development community to think outside the box ( invent, create ), abandon a one size fits all model to approaching software development and execute your projects in a pragmatic fashion that takes account of the context you’re working in….has turned into a marketing machine of horrible dimensions.
There was a time when people talked agile and you knew they were on the vanguard; trying to solve the real problems. They cared. They were passionate, deliberate, and informed. Now, when you hear a colleague professing agile…they’re most likely drinking the kool-aid poured by the snake-oil agile coach from Denver or San Fran. The formulaic response to the core problems is all too familiar and draining:
I’m not knocking these techniques. Many are novel inventions that do have their place in SD/AD. But instead of being offered as potential options, patterns, techniques to solving a problem among many other potential solutions; they have become a sales pitch by the opportunist preying on desperate CIOs. Buyer beware. Bubbles pop and my gut says the needle to prick this balloon is getting very sharp and close.
Let’s stop agilizing everything. Good ideas, tools, and techniques don’t need the word ‘agile’ pre or post fixed to be worthwhile.
Come Back Home
So turn off the scrum-o-matic. Wipe the agile makeup from your face, and put the kanban sequin dress away. There are still problems to solve. We haven’t unraveled this thing called software development. It’s devilishly vexing and we need good minds focused on it. Become neo-software-amish, come back home to the forest of software trolls and invent/create again.
My latest news article on InfoQ -> http://www.infoq.com/news/2011/11/project-managers-problem
Gartner recently unveiled the top trends that enterprise IT should be strategically focused on. One of those is the growing use of tablets in the work environment. This post will take a look at the implications of increased tablet and smart phone use in the enterprise and hopefully deliver some insight into this trend beyond just a capacity replacement strategy for PCs and laptops.
Implications of Tablets and Smart Phones in the Enterprise
Let’s skip the obvious background and trend information and launch straight into the implications.
1. Printer exit strategy – Think of tablets as electronic paper. That’s one of their utilities. Plenty of technology gurus have struggled to manifest using technology in lieu of paper only to be vexed by the utility, versatility and permanence of the 8.5 X 11 parchment of industry. So what’s different this time? Portability, usability and eventually….sharing. Right now it’s a little cumbersome to share notes, reports, and other virtual-papyrus artifacts with everyone in a room. It’d be nice if my tablet recognized all those other tablets in the meeting auto-magic-ally and allowed me to share documents with them with little more than a button click. A kind of permanent “LiveMeeting” or “WebEx” with RFID/GPS type sensory to recognize my location relative to the meeting schedule for that room. It’s not there yet, but you can see it coming.
That alone won’t shut down your printers and get rid of the reams of stock in your office closet. Nor will it stop “Ed” at IKON solutions from frequenting your micro printing press to unclog the jam of a decade. It will take you, the CIO, pushing, selling and implementing a bold strategy: get rid of them. All of them. I’m talking about your printers. People won’t stop using printers unless they’re gone. Once they’re out of reach….they’ll find, and use the alternatives.
If you’re Hewlett Packard or Lexmark, yesterday would have be a very good time to rethink your business model. Kodak is foreshadowing you. Tablets will get thinner, more collaborative, increasingly better at power utilization, and super cheap.
2. Embrace video/audio recording – Does anyone else see the paradox in someone with a tablet typing or writing meeting notes on his device when it’s fully capable of recording the visual/audio representation of that discussion? Tablets and other devices can transform how your organization captures information and knowledge and shares that with others. Written/readable documents don’t go away, but moving an organization toward a video/audio strategy should improve the quality of your work. So much context is lost in written notes, documents, requirements, and emails. How much does that quality cost?
Go with this strategy and here’s what changes:
3. From office to work lounge – Look at your desk/cubicle. If you’re mobile and paperless…why do you need this space? Work places are still relevant. Collaboration and communication happen best in a common physical environment. Working from home is like working in a really thick cubicle. But to encourage the freedom and interaction that mobility and paperless bring to the office, the furniture and interior should be living, playful and open. Many employers have already made this move: mobile whiteboards, open touch down areas, couches, plants, and open space with lots of natural air are some of the interior elements that seem to work well for a work lounge.
The implication of work lounges and the increased interaction is that work is not work anymore. People aren’t laborers, they’re….well….people. Work, fun, friends, co-workers, ideas, and profits will begin to blend. This poses some challenges to stodgy HR policies and Tayloristic views of management. Those who’ll succeed in this environment will be leaders, not managers and the org chart will flow around them in an organic way. Corporate empire builders beware.
4. Office supplies / telecommunication equipment reduction – In addition to dropping your printers and paper supplies you can now chuck your sticky notes, paper clips, desk phones, and almost everything else in that closet. Again, if you keep it around people will use it. If you dump it, then they’ll get creative and use the tools they have. Force the change. Be the leader and save the company money.
Office Depot, Staples and others should plan their exit strategy. Maybe they begin selling the work lounge concept and the supplies for that. To date, I see little evidence they *get* this.
5. Killer App Coming……Plan for it -> Intersection of Identity / NFC – An earthquake is coming to the landscape of identity and access management. Check out my earlier articles on this for background. Your mobile device is an abstraction of you. People will come into your employment with their credentials and data already digitized and ready to be transferred and used in your environment. You’ll pull this data from LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+…….and using those same tools you can give them rights/permissions to systems on your cloud. Kaboom!
In time this destroys internal LDAP systems, multiple id and password issues, corporate HR systems and physical security access control. These will be thrown into a social mobile nfc blender and become the domain of mega vendors. The tech war to control the identity market will have no comparison to previous epic battles. Those who scale this out will capture the lucrative enterprise IT market.
The implications are vast and will touch every corner of the enterprise IT market. Plan for this NFC hurricane to shake out vendors through 2012-2013. You’ll want to embrace those software vendors that do NFC, cloud and social identities for access. My prediction? Microsoft’s collapse is right around the corner.
6. Build vs Buy vs…….Download for Free. The implication of app markets is that you now have a third generic system strategy: download for free. Any options analysis for system planning should consider this. While it hasn’t happened yet, that i know of, we could well see a big vendor crash as a freely available mobile app does the approximate functionality for none of the cost.
The download for free option should also be used as a development strategy. Maybe you find something that ‘kind of meets’ your needs. Download, play, experiment, trial and get a feel for it. Then, approach the developers of that app and say you have some ideas to improve it. They might do it for free.
App markets are consumerization of IT writ large. Our work force will be our IT department, and our IT department will turn into technology strategists, gurus, enterprise architects. High caliber, well paid business technology talent will replace the ‘system analysts’ of today and IT departments will shrink. Invest in your best.
7. Email’s days are numbered – Email gave us a huge productivity boost in the 90s. Indeed it was the killer app of the first internet explosion. But as we’ve moved through time its weaknesses are costing us. The loss of context in email, as apposed to physical presence undermines quality of work. Mis-understandings, multiple interpretation, cultural differences and poor writing lead to *email threads* that are a semiphore of poor quality. Think ,just for a second, how many issues you deal with daily that revolve around clarifying what someone meant in a cetain email? It’s astounding and it’s holding us all back.
There’s a better way, but it hasn’t been built yet. Google’s Wave initiative is a bold attempt at remaking communications tools. It’s close, but the email replacement will incorporate the cameras, microphones, and NFC chips that are built into tablets and smart devices.
Any CIO will want to watch this space and price out the latent, untapped potential cost savings in boosting communications quality across the enterprise. Combine this vision with implication #5 above, and you can see the scale of change coming towards us.
8. POS industry: look out you’re about to be remade – Tablets can be turned into POS terminals. Enough said. If you’re a POS vendor and you don’t realize this: what in the name of clam chowder have you been doing the last 2 years? With NFC in 2012 an avalanche of slim, mobile terminals will usher in tap-pay while still accepting swipe pay.
Cash and checks will be digitized too and while the exact shakeout is still fuzzy to me; private digital currencies ( Ven, BitCoins ) are going to play a role here. As I professed in my article about the externet ( internet of things ), the combination of an amorphous, unaccountable virtual world and the ability to pay with a tap lower and free the barriers to entry for those enterprising enough to believe they can challenge the global fiat currency oligarchy. Nation states, banks, and the overlords of international finance will surely capitalize on this opportunity in some way. Watch my blog for future posts on this….I’m still noodling on it.
9. Healthcare – Goodbye clipboard, hello iPad. It’s all over the place, and doctors and nurses are demanding that all their software tools run on tablets. FINALLY technology understands healthcare’s unique needs. God bless Steve Jobs and the Apple-neers. Steve, this was truly your greatest gift to the world…..not the iPhone. You’ve given doctors a tool that will help them treat and solve the very problem that took you from us too early. Rest in peace.
Taking this further, digitizing medical records and sharing that with patients is the bonfire lit by the meaningful use regulations passed in 2009. NFC, smart devices and tablets will make the sharing part real time and collaborative. People will really know and understand their health.
Surfing the waves of enterprise tablet integration has great possibility for the visionary C-level executive. Will you be one of them? My consultation to you: tear up your current IT strategy document and vest your talent with the authority and energy to make these nine implications happen. If you don’t…your competitors will. You can be sure that some of the finest minds in IT are reading and following this blog. Numbers don’t lie. Be part of the revolution rather than a victim of it.
Business analysts, requirements managers, and project managers will find the greatest interest in this article.
Software Product Planning
It occurred to me last week during one of our weekly iteration planning sessions that one of the most esoteric methods around product planning is deciding which requirements to turn into software features. The more rigorous approaches look at the cost of the feature, the potential impact to ROI ( assuming there is one ), and the demand.
What’s wrong with this approach is that it considers the features and resulting requirements in isolation from one another. By not considering how each new feature affects the existing product as a whole teams can and do end up with products in which the original feature set, that made the software successful, become diluted. Those of you who’ve worked with me know my favorite example is CA’s Remedy product, but I think one could find other examples: the Microsoft Office suite of products may be in this camp.
Feature Dilution: A Formula
So how would one go about constructing a measurement for feature dilution? First – some assumptions:
Ok, so knowing these let’s construct a model for software feature dilution. We’ll adapt a formula from the world of finance.
V – Value of sofware after Feature dilution =
((O x OP) +(N x (∑ IP1, IP2….IPn))) / (O + N)
O = original number of features
OP = Current NPV of product ( could use ROI too )
N = number of new features to be added
IP1, IP2, IPn = NPV of each new feature.
If you run this formula through some examples in time what you’ll find is that as a product matures new features need to continually generate greater returns to justify value to the original product and ultimately diluting the existing feature set.
This is exactly what should happen if we want to avoid the fate of an overly complex and unmanageable software product. Just like stock market share dilution the product management team needs to justify that further feature dilution will grow the value of the product in terms of existing functionality…..not just that it will add to revenue.
Simplicity in software design has always been something great software architects knew yielded great products. With this formula I hope I have provided at least a start to measuring simplicity in software.