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Agile Project Management

Cutting-edge Agile methodologies, software development techniques and project management practices.

 
A New Kind of Software Development Framework

A good way to make predictions is to recognize current trends and then extrapolate them into the future. The longer the trends, the more confident you can be about the predictions. Thinking about software development processes, we see two long-term paths that software development has taken. These paths are the basis of both our joint prediction for the coming year and the kind of holistic consulting we will focus on in 2015. The path some have taken has been moving from one lifecycle process to another, each containing a set of prescribed practices. These, in rough order, are waterfall, spiral, controlled iteration/RUP, Xtreme Programing, Agile, and DevOps. We may have missed one or two, plus …

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Nov 242014
 
What really is an MVP?

In his highly influential book, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries introduced term “minimal viable product” (MVP). As Ries rightly points out, firms putting out new products typically spend too much time and money on features that miss the mark somehow in meeting customer needs or are simply unnecessary. The result is a delayed over-expensive product that is more likely than not an economic failure. Reese proposes a better alternative: put out the least function (minimal) product that you can that might meet customer needs or at least will draw customer attention (viable). This way the team can test the market with different feature sets, get customer feedback, and commit development resources to the expensive activity …

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If you only adopt one practice of Agile, adopt retrospectives. The rest will emerge from that. This is old wisdom among Agilists, and back in the early 2000s, Cutter Senior Consultant Alistair Cockburn boiled down his Crystal Clear method to “Iterate and Reflect.” I thought everything of interest had already been written on this topic — until I was involved recently in a mostly failed transition during which this was a major topic. Looking at leadership models, you find the concept of post-heroic leadership where the heroic leader solves problems by either being the expert him or herself, or an “achiever” who pushes others to solve the problem. The post-heroic leader works by providing the …

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Every historical era has its lessons, such as Don’t trust totalitarian dictators to respect diplomatic niceties, Avoid land wars in Asia, and You know what’s going to happen to Sean Bean in this movie. One of the lessons of the last decade is certainly Information is not intelligence. Unfortunately, many people who do software requirements, or depend on them to build and test software, have not seen the relevance of that maxim in their own work. Requirements in software development serve much the same purpose as intelligence in national security: they are supposed to provide actionable, reliable insights. “Actionable” is largely a question of format, which software professionals can control directly. Older questions like, What …

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From Information Risk Management to BI for Software Organizations to Agile Transitions, We’ve Got You Covered.

We’ve been rounding up Dennises lately: Dennis Adams and Dennis Hogarth have joined our team of expert consultants. But along with the Dennises, we welcome Nancy Williams, Murray Cantor and Don MacIntyre. Dennis Adams is a long time Cutter contributor. He’s frequently presented the academic viewpoint for Cutter Benchmark Review. (If you’re not familiar with CBR, it partners academics and practitioners who co-write a survey, analyze the data, and then write opinion pieces — influenced by their academic/practitioner perspective — that are based on the findings. Looking at an issue or technology from both an academic and practical perspective gives CBR readers the 360 view they won’t otherwise see.) Now Dennis will add his expertise …

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Every once in a while, you run into an individual or an organization with an acutely mechanistic view of software development processes. “Mechanistic,” in this context, means that processes are like machines: you wind them up and let them go. As long as they continue to operate, good things will result. This misconception echoes a similar view of political systems that is alternately harmless and dangerous. In “The Place Of The Independent In Politics,” James Russell Lowell warned that too many Americans had lapsed into a view of the Constitution that it was a “machine that would go if itself.” “I admire the splendid complacency of my countrymen,” Lowell said, “and find something exhilarating and …

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In a recent post, I talked about the value of playing a game about Agile portfolio management. The game showed how, over time, stable Agile teams are more productive than ad hoc teams of even the highest performers. As a result, Agile turns on its head the way many people look at portfolio management: rather than feeding teams to projects, portfolio management should feed projects to teams. This example shows one of the many virtues of serious games, their ability to help us make sense of important principles about the operation of systems. Our brains struggle with systems thinking, so anything that can help us move beyond our cognitive limitations is a good thing. Some …

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Dedicated Teams And The Agile Portfolio Management Game

Dedicated teams are critical to the success of Agile projects, both in the short-term (this particular project) and the long term (the queue of future projects. A serious game on which I’ve been working shows this principle in action better than any words I’ve used to communicate this point. I started working on the game because a lot of people struggle with the notion of dedicated teams. Even in cases when Agile has achieved a foothold in the organization, and everyone’s happy with the results, many people outside these teams may not understand or appreciate how big a difference team cohesion makes. There’s a difficult cultural shift from seeing teams as collections of individual “resources” …

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Leadership for Successful Agile Transitions

If you only adopt one practice of Agile, adopt retrospectives. The rest will emerge from that. This is old wisdom among Agilists, and back in the early 2000s, Cutter Senior Consultant Alistair Cockburn boiled down his Crystal Clear method to “Iterate and Reflect.” I thought everything of interest had already been written on this topic — until I was involved recently in a mostly failed transition during which this was a major topic. Looking at leadership models, you find the concept of post-heroic leadership where the heroic leader solves problems by either being the expert him or herself, or an “achiever” who pushes others to solve the problem. The post-heroic leader works by providing the …

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Back in 2004, when he was a vice presidential candidate, then-Senator John Edwards hit a nerve with his “Two Americas” speech at the Democratic National Convention. Here is the core sentence in that speech: And we have much work to do, because the truth is, we still live in a country where there are two different Americas, one for all of those people who have lived the American dream and don’t have to worry, and another for most Americans, everybody else who struggle to make ends meet every single day. It doesn’t have to be that way. The Agile movement faces its own version of the Two Americas problem. It’s appropriate and necessary to celebrate …

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