Agile Project Management

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

Feb 042016

In many engagements, upper and middle management ask: “How do we fix our testing (QC) process? The team is just not catching the defects.” When managers ask this question I usually asked these managers a question in return: “Why focus on fixing your testing processes first; shouldn’t you first focus on fixing the development process, since they write the code?” This usually starts a vigorous discussion about where the problem really lies in the organization, which is exactly the kind of soul searching an organization needs to do when they ask to fix the testing. Fix the Root of the Problem and Not Just the Symptom The objective in asking the question is to get Read more

Jan 262016
Chasing Black Swans Through The Snow

We had a little snow here in Washington, DC on Friday, and we’re still digging out. The great snowstorm of 2016, a.k.a. Snowzilla, was the kind of outlier event that even the most dysfunctional of local governments must be ready to handle. Even if you think that 2-3 feet of snow in a single day is a “black swan” event, you had better have the snow plows and dump trucks ready for that unlikely scenario. Software innovators have a much different attitude about black swans. Rather than prepare their response for them, they usually act as though they will never occur. Sure, you might do everything you can to prevent, say, an unexpected architectural glitch Read more

Jan 152016

Is QA (aka QC) seen as an impediment in your organization? If you answered yes to this question, then chances are your organization is in one of two camps: 1) QA is really an impediment, or 2) QA is actually ensuring that your organization is releasing quality software. QA is Really an Impediment Some organizations still have formal QA departments that execute testing as a separate phase than the development team. While this may be a necessity in some industries due to laws and regulations, for most other organizations where this is not required, it is usually a sign of a QA team that is not ready to change. It is a sign that this Read more

Jan 122016

[All posts in this series: 1, 2, 3, 4] As I read through Tom Grant’s article on Agile Frameworks, one word kept jumping out at me: structure! People like frameworks because they provide a structure that is repeatable. As I think back to all the Agile deployments I have dealt with, there were many misconceptions about Agile but the one that was consistent was that Agile did not have structure. Many managers who asked for Agile to be implemented had the idea that being Agile meant that you didn’t have to do many of the things that they were doing with the other software development process they were using. Managers focused on the literal meaning Read more

Jan 122016
The Agile Challenge in System Design

While Agile is pretty mainstream by now in Web and app development, it is still a major challenge in system design, where software plays only a part of the game, although that piece is steadily increasing. Whether we’re talking about manufacturers of cars, chips, or medical devices, they all need to respond to the increasing pace in the market. Only one or two decades ago, these industries were content with product cycles of three to five years. Today, some chip manufacturers are capable of delivering a new version of their product every second month, causing excitement for their customers and despair for their competitors. Obviously, Agile in these industries means something different than in pure Read more

Jan 112016
Call for Papers: Technical Debt: The Continued Burden On Software Innovation

Technical debt is like the family secret that no one wants to talk about. Everyone knows that it exists, it’s awful, and it makes life miserable for everyone affected by it. However, people are often unable or unwilling to confront it. The simplest explanation of technical debt is the increasing burden created with each decision to cut corners when coding software. The greater the pressure to deliver software, the greater incentive to cut corners. The more corners cut in the past, the harder it is to deliver new software value in the future. Technical debt imposes significant business costs. In an era of digital transformation, organizations respond more slowly to threats and opportunities. What little Read more

Jan 082016
Agile Frameworks: Does Anyone Know What A Framework Is?

[Later posts in this series: 2, 3, 4] [Welcome to the first in a series of posts about Agile frameworks. In this series, Cutter consultants in the Agile Product Management & Software Engineering Excellence practice give their thoughts on this topic, with the goal of helping people make smart decisions about choosing or implementing Agile frameworks. The author of this first post is Tom Grant, the practice director for Agile Product Management & Software Engineering Excellence.] To My Cutter Colleagues, First, thank you for agreeing to start this dialogue. Given the amount of time we’ve spent talking about Agile frameworks, both with our clients and each other, I thought it would be a good idea to open Read more

Jan 062016
Agile, Broken Dishes, And Loony Dooks

With the new year comes actual change, not just resolutions. Case in point: This is my inaugural post as the new practice director for Agile Product Management And Software Engineering Excellence here at Cutter. I’m excited and honored to take on the position, particularly at a moment when both Agile specifically, and software development generally, are going through some big, big changes. Before we get into that topic, let’s talk about New Year’s traditions from around the world. Many of us are still settling into our work after the holiday break, so it may not be time for the thoughts to be too profound, or the wording too dense. Trust me, by way of metaphor, we’ll Read more

Nov 032015
Considering Group Dynamics in Agile Adoption

Understanding individuals and how they interact with each other is one of the key priorities of Agile. In fact, the very first statement of the flagship Agile Manifesto highlights this priority. When individuals interact positively with each other, they promote the group’s common goal. This is collaboration. Honest collaboration invariably challenges the inherently territorial nature of humans. We love to hold on to our spaces and boundaries (both geographical and mental). Collaboration permeates those boundaries and makes them porous. The need to break down the territorial mindset in humans is perhaps the hardest thing to comprehend and accept in an Agile culture change. Promoting collaboration fundamentally depends on understanding how two (or more) individuals interact Read more

Sep 302015
Strategy And Backlogs Exist To Be Adjusted

During today’s webinar about ALM, I took great pains to talk about what constitutes a real strategy for software innovation, and what an imitation strategy looks like. Many of the questions we receive at Cutter, such as, “What scaled Agile approach should we pursue?” are impossible to answer without a strategy to guide these sorts of decisions. Before talking about scaled Agile, or whatever the topic du jour is, we first must backtrack into a discussion of the strategic imperatives behind these questions — assuming anyone knows what those imperatives are. One of the hardest aspects to understand about strategy, either for ALM or anything else, is that it’s not written on stone tablets. Strategy is made Read more