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Keep your head in the clouds with Agile—no matter your size

Michael-Deady ‎01-03-2013 08:36 AM - edited ‎09-18-2015 03:58 PM

Welcome to 2013! I am excited for what the year holds. I feel relaxed after some down time and I am still charged after my experience at HP Discover Frankfurt (even if a pickpocket did make off with my wallet). I have so many topics I want to discuss this year, and I want to hear from you about topics you want to learn more about.


But today I would like to start off with a story about Agile. And like all good Christmas stories, this one begins with dreaming…


Let’s say that last year you moved from a Fortune 500 company to a company that has less than 100 employees. Just before leaving for the holidays, you convinced the CIO (who sits in the cube next to you) that the Agile Methodology would be a great idea for the patch-fix support structure for next year.


As you headed home for the holidays you felt pretty good about yourself, and as a reward you decide to bone up on your scrum training. After the break, you discover that you convinced CIO and they decided to implement your plan as part of the new development process that will make or break this young company (gulp). To add to your dilemma, you found out that instead of using local resources your team consists of:

  • An analyst working remotely from home
  • Two contract senior developers in Mumbai India
  • Four contract junior developers in Singapore
  • And finally, three contractors that will be doing your manual and automated testing in Costa Rica.


In fact, the only person that works out of the home office with you is the business owner—and they just read “The crib notes on Agile Methodology for dummies” (Not a real book, do not look for it at your local bookstore). For some weird reason, this same person is looking forward to sharing the 4X4 cube with you for the next year. Your slush funds for this project consist of enough money to fly one consultant to the home office for two weeks. While rereading the agile manifesto, you see statements like “developed for small to medium projects”, “consolidated team environment”, and “direct communications”.  This is all it takes to convince you that getting your resume in order again is probably your best bet for success.


Fiction or fact? You decide.


Some of you may see this as a comical alternate reality, but most of you will relate to at least some parts of the story. The reality is that most IT groups are made up of less than 50 people and most employees are in a support role. To begin a new development most companies will look for contractors or offshore consultants, often the lowest bidder. While most companies recognize that staff augmentation for new development is not the best model in these lean times it’s the only choice a lot of companies can afford.


Some of the key obstacles that will be standing in your way for the next several sprints include:

  • Self-organization and motivated are important, as are interactions like co-location teams
    • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    • Responding to change over following a plan
    • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
    • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
    • Software built around motivated individuals


Once the individuals are in place, you need to make sure they are working well together and performing assigned tasks. You also need to make sure the project will meet deadlines by:

  • Maintaining a constant pace
  • Principal measure of progress
  • Constant Communication (preferred method face-to-face)
  • Rapid application development versus documentation
  • Around-the-clock communications


To run any Agile project in a distributed ecosystem you’ll need to look at some key criteria of success:

  • Affordable for small to medium agile teams
  • Minimal training needed for resources that are not familiar with the platform or the Agile Methodology.
  • Reliable platform that you can access 24 x 7 from any location (home, work and mobile device)
  • The ability to track communications in real time (chat or email)
  • Real-Time reporting and trending
  • Traceable or version controlled user stories and change requests
  • Reliable and proven issue tracking
  • Ability to track progress by group, team and individuals
  • Platform flexibility to match your agile processes or methodology
  • Customizable media that will allow the user to quickly assess current statuses and roadblocks.
  • A platform that encourages team interaction and ownership
  • Integration with other development tools and platforms


After reading both the obstacle list and the key to success list I am sure you are more convinced that updating your resume would be time well spent. I would encourage you to take these immortal words to heart “endeavor to persevere”.


The view from your window determines what you see


In this post I looked at the agile methodology in a very narrow aspect. I looked at it from the perspective of starting up a new project based on previous experience. In the near future I’d like to address this subject more as a member of an Agile project team and the different challenges that are faced in a distributed resource environment.


My favorite statements within the Agile manifesto are “Responding to change over following a plan”. While most people see this statement the as being reactive to set of situations, in reality these are words that we need to live by for 2013—plan for the future and embrace change. The one thing that I can guarantee this year is that change is inevitable and that to be successful in a lean software development environment we need to embrace changes as potential opportunities no matter what the size of company that we work for.


From the outside this may seem like a nightmare situation, but in my next post I will describe how to make the most of the hand you have been given when it comes to a large project in a small environment. Have you experienced this first hand? Let me know in the comments section below, I am sure other readers are interested in your experience as well.



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About the Author


Michael Deady is a Pr. Consultant & Solution Architect for Teksystems, center on quality, aimed at client's satisfaction, and long-term success. Perceived by clients, peers, and supervisors as a leader with the proven ability to lead development and quality assurance teams through software-development life cycle phases, to ensure quality of new products. He specializes in software development, testing, and security. He also loves science fiction movies and anything to do with Texas.

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