Think of a medieval fortress: It was originally used for a small army, it has walls nine meters thick, and it’s surrounded by buildings hundreds of years old. Upon entering, you are confronted with the concept of eternity.
This fortress is located in the smallest state on earth — though it is also perhaps the best-known state in the world. The business housed within the fortress is what many might classify as a SME but with with complexity of a large enterprise, holy but busy, centralized but truly global — its work spans hundreds of countries with hundreds of currencies and hundreds of languages — and it serves very special and demanding clients.
Have a clue yet of where we are?
Zoom on Italy, then zoom on Rome, then zoom on Vatican City, and you can’t miss the round tower (Torrione Sisto V) where the Vatican Bank, or Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR ), is located. You won’t be allowed in if you are not a client, an employee, or part of a religious congregation. Change comes hard to institutions this steeped in tradition. To give you a clue, IOR’s previous managing director spent his entire career at IOR — 60 years — and retired at the age of 80. We all know it’s the soft and cultural aspects of transformation that are the hardest part for any organization.
Nevertheless, IOR has been going through a major change since 2008, working to replace its legacy IT system with a modern BT one. The new BT system brings more flexibility for the business, richer business functionality, and greater integration and development capabilities. Enabling fast change is the key driver for IOR’s IT transformation program from IT into BT.
My colleague and friend Mike Gualtieri wrote a really interesting blog the other day titled "Agile Software Is A Cop-Out; Here's What's Next." While I am not going to discuss the great conclusions and "next practices" of software (SW) development Mike suggests in that blog, I do want to focus on the assumption he makes about using working SW as a measurement of Agile.
I am currently researching that area and investigating how organizations actually measure the value of Agile SW development (business and IT value). And I am finding that, while organizations aim to deliver working SW, they also define value metrics to measure progress and much more:
Cycle time (e.g., from concept to production);
Business value (from number of times a feature is used by clients to impact on sales revenue, etc.);
Productivity metrics (such as burndown velocity, number of features deployed versus estimated); and last but not least
Quality metrics (such as defects per sprint/release, etc.).
Never has a new trend annoyed me as much as Agile. Right from the get-go, the Agile Manifesto revealed the weaknesses and immaturity of the founding principles. The two most disturbing: “Working software is the primary measure of progress” and “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.” These are
If you've been reading the research I've been writing over the past year, you know that I'm a fan of implementing an application life-cycle management strategy that focuses on increasing development flow and supports high-performance teams. You don't need to religiously implement all 22 CMMI processes or deliver dozens of intermediate development artifacts like some leading processes advocate. Rather, there are certain important processes that you should spend your time on. We wrote about change-aware continuous integration and just-in-time demand management in last year's Agile Development Management Tools Forrester Wave™. They are two of my favorite areas of focus, and they are great areas to invest in, but once you have them working well, there are other areas that will require your focus. In my opinion, the next process where you should focus on flow is everything that happens post build and preproduction. Most folks think about this process as release management or configuration management, but I think there's a better term that focuses on how quickly software changes move through both processes. It's called continuous delivery. When you focus on establishing a process of continuous delivery, you'll find that your capacity to release changes will increase, your null release cycle will shrink, and a larger proportion of the productivity gains you've seen from your Agile development efforts will flow through into production.
Gaining visibility into the big picture of an IT portfolio feels like one of the unsolvable challenges, and it’s not for lack of trying. Dashboards abound, and PPM tools are becoming more user friendly all the time, but do these tools really provide transparency into what’s really going on? Sometimes I think these tools provide MORE information than what you need, akin to telling you how to build the watch when all you want is the time. After reading Dave West’s “Why Kanban Matters,” I think more and more about how Kanban will provide project management offices with the information they need so that it can feed the portfolio more efficiently.
At a glance, the PMO knows where everything is in its cycle, what’s in the pipeline, and a brief status of what is important or in the need to know. Depending on the information that bubbles up in the brief status line, the PMO can determine where there may be resource constraints or where demand is driving the next steps . . . and it enables executives to get a visual of how demand is affecting current projects and supports the PMO’s need to communicate status without flooding dashboards with useless information. This can drive valuable conversations based on clear, concise information — it’s hard to miss what on tap and what is being delayed. It’s a process whose time has come.
Have you thought about leveraging Kanban above the project level? I’d love to hear your comments.
Ever hear about the "First Rule of Holes"? It's pretty simple — if you find yourself in a hole with a shovel, the first thing to do is.... stop digging!
That's kind of what it's like in app dev when it comes to release management: We've dug ourselves a pretty deep hole, and it's impacting our overall ability to ship software on time. We recently ran a survey of app dev professionals that confirms what we hear in our client inquiries: Most development leaders are frustrated with slow software delivery and their release management process (see Figure). While Agile speeds software design and development, it doesn't do much to speed up release and deployment — creating a flash point where frequent releases collide with slower release practices.
But some organizations have stopped digging themselves in deeper. They are working with their peers in operations to streamline release management and cutting steps into the side wall of their hole so that they can climb out, step by step. Here are five steps that they are taking:
Investing in improving their pre-build processes. Many problems that occur during a release cycle have their root cause in inadequate pre-build tasks and activities.
Expanding release management throughput. Projects that have large code bases or extensive testing cycles are using parallelism and intelligent testing processes to speed up the early stages of the release cycle.
Optimizing their release pipeline. After taking care of the early stages of the release pipeline, advanced teams are implementing virtualization, parallel testing, and developer self service to further compress their release cycles.