Agile Development Requires Agile Staffing

The impacts of the growing agility requirements within staffing cross a broad territory, currently limited only by the relatively small number of individuals involved. However, these impacts will continue and likely grow in importance as Agile principles become prevalent. Some potential issues and needs to look out for include: Revising existing job descriptions and establishing new specialties. Businesses should create new Agile jobs, such as product owner and ScrumMaster. These are not management jobs in the traditional sense, but they do require resources and responsibilities. Older project management positions should be altered or eliminated. Similarly, Agile development team members should develop collaboration and communications skills and may need training in the use of collaborative technologies, particularly …

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Recently, I published a five-part series of videos about application lifecycle management (ALM), summarizing a lot of what I’ve learned about the subject. Probably the two most important points are the following: ALM is a strategy, not a framework, a methodology, or a bunch of tools. Software innovators, from IT departments to Silicon Valley start-ups, need to overcome their confusion over what a strategy really is. The videos already make the arguments behind these two points, so I won’t repeat them here. Instead, I’ll focus on a practical issue, knowing the difference between a real strategy and an imitation of one. Many software companies define their strategy as a series of initiatives. Some representative examples …

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Call for Papers: What's Over the Technology Horizon?

In the upcoming Cutter IT Journal issue on Avoiding Technology Backlash, Bob Charette suggests that cloud computing, data analytics, sensors and the Internet of Things, robotics, mobile and social computing, “super-intelligent” systems and advanced cognitive systems — once wild ideas — are all about to enter the mainstream. The future is here but with technology changing so fast we can’t help but ask, “what’s beyond all the stuff we can see?” What happens when we hit the physical limits of IC manufacturing? Or, how will we avoid hitting them? How will we get multiple order-of-magnitude improvements in data transmission, computing and memory performance, and what happens when we get them? Will quantum entanglement make instantaneous …

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Five Myths About the Commoditization of IT

“Commodity” is a bad word among technologists. It implies standardized, unchanging, noninnovative, boring, and cheap. Commodities are misunderstood. This post seeks to dispel some of the myths around the commoditization of IT services (i.e., the cloud). 1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Is Not a Commodity Like Oil Yes, according to the technical definition of “commodity,” IaaS is not one. But then nor is oil, or gas, or coal, or pork bellies. None of these so-called commodities is perfectly fungible (i.e., so close to identical that a buyer is indifferent as to what is delivered), and being fungible is a prerequisite for any true commodity. When we refer to oil as a commodity, for instance, …

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Obstacles to Social Media Analytics

I’ve been spending a lot of time with social media analytics and exploring how organizations are adopting and applying the technology. There are a number of obstacles confronting organizations seeking to implement social media analytics. These include technical and organizational considerations, as well as dealing with societal or consumer concerns when it comes to privacy. The latter appear to be particularly troublesome for end-user organizations. Technical/Organizational Considerations One of the biggest technical issues is a perceived lack of best practices for social media analysis. Social media analysis is still a fairly new application for end-user organizations, and many seek guidance and best practices when it comes to actually designing and implementing their social media analytics …

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Cloud computing, data analytics, sensors and the Internet of Things, robotics, mobile and social computing, “super-intelligent” systems and advanced cognitive systems are merely a few of the technologies that have moved from the realm of being an interesting idea into the main stream. Just over the horizon are not only improvements to each of these technologies but also virtual/augmented reality systems, autonomous vehicles, private drones, 3D printing, quantum computing, gesture control systems and wearable computing, among others that promise to change our daily routines in a myriad of ways. High tech companies like to tout the many benefits of these technologies — for example, it is believed that moving to autonomous vehicles will not only …

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Seriously Gaming At Cutter Summit 2015

This Monday, on the first day of the Cutter Summit 2015, it was my great privilege to moderate a session about serious games as tools of disruptive innovation. By changing the normal rules of interaction, we can have more productive interactions during the innovation process, including the all-important collaboration with the customer. Serious games also help in the education process, driving home lessons in a way that words alone often cannot. They also provide an opportunity to “try before you buy,” simulating new innovation strategies, such as adopting Agile or managing your portfolio differently. During the session, we played three games, one representing each of these potential benefits that serious games offer. (There are others.) …

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Truly, One Size Does Not Fit All

Software development is not really a single discipline. What comes under the overall field is a combination of disciplines that address a range of problems: Maintaining and evolving fielded code Adding significant new features to an existing application or platform Building an entirely new application or platform These differ in the amount of innovation required and the amount of information available for delivering a quality system. Teams working on type 1 problems generally are not required to invent anything and they have detailed information on the code change required and available technology. Teams addressing type 2 efforts may need to be innovative in building out and integrating the capability. Also, they usually have incomplete information …

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The Importance of Cross-Training

Cross-training reduces reliance on individual experts and extends a firm’s capabilities without hiring externally. A single specialist can become a bottleneck in a business process simply because he or she is the only person with a necessary skill. This is evident in areas such as software development where the idea of multi-skilling has become a component of Agile development. The problem that cross-training solves is the natural creation of islands of expertise and its consequences. While some people certainly need to be experts, cross-training problems occur at a lower level. Overall, it is important to recognize that isolated skills and resultant bottlenecks develop as a process over time. Consider an individual familiar with a particular …

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Agile practitioners are often proud — and justifiably so — that when people are seriously adhering to the principles and practices, they keep the focus on value. They usually do a better job on average, I would argue from both first-hand experience and a fair amount of research, than the adherents of Waterfall methods. That’s not the same as saying that there’s not room for improvement. Value is a slippery concept. What’s valuable to you isn’t necessarily valuable to me. That statement extends to user stories, in which the “so that…” clause differs, depending on the persona identified in the “As a…” section that precedes it. We’re supposed to write stories that have some value …

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