Sunday, June 29, 2014

Governance of Agile Delivery

Introduction

The Agile methodology brings in alternate approach to traditional project management, where success was hard to get. Typically used in software development, Agile methodology help businesses respond to unpredictability. By focusing on the repetition of smaller work cycles as well as the deliverables, agile methodology is described as “iterative” and “incremental”. In waterfall, development teams only have one chance to get each aspect of a project right. In an agile paradigm, every aspect of development viz. requirements, design, etc. is continually revisited. When a team stops and re-evaluates the direction of a project every two weeks, there’s time to change course. Because teams can develop software at the same time they’re gathering requirements, “analysis paralysis” is less likely to impede a team from making progress. Agile development preserves a product’s critical market relevance and ensures a team’s work doesn’t wind up on a shelf, never released. Considering the value delivery that the Agile methodology promises, its adoption has been on the rise and today most organizations, including Government are embracing Agile approaches.


Governance of Agile Delivery


Critics say that Agile methodology is all about working in an unstructured way and for that reason, they believe that governing agile practices is always a challenge. While some of the Agile principles appear to support such criticism, there are many cases where organizations have successfully implemented processes and frameworks towards governance of Agile practices. Agile practitioners believe that because the agile methods are designed to be self-assuring, when practiced right, there exists built-in governance and accountability.


More so, the agile practices are more collaborative and operates continuously, requiring the stakeholders to review and test the deliverables on a continuous basis and helps the team to take alternate course of action as may be needed. Collaborative culture helps resolution of problems quicker and makes decisions are made on time. This helps to have a continuous focus on the value forecast with respect to the business case and manage the risks that may potentially impact on the expected value.


Principles of Governance

The following are the key governance principles for a successful governance of Agile Delivery:

Focus on the value delivery - only do a task if it brings value to the business. This principle also recognizes the timely delivery of a task as the value derived is more likely to deteriorate with the delayed delivery. In case of Agile deliveries, the governance is continuous and at a work unit level. It should also focus on what activity is taking place and the value such task delivers.

Embrace Change - This another principle of Agile and the Governance framework should take this into consideration. This would mean that the decisions or work flows should be flexible enough to change course based on the feedback received. Given that all stakeholders collaborate, decisions should be taken across the table, without putting things on hold and for the purpose, all needed specialists should take part in the reviews.

Decide on the performance metrics - Another key principle of Agile methodology is to 'fail fast and learn quiuckly'. Given that the overall objective is to improve the certainty that the team will deliver a usable product or service of good quality, the teams should be able to identify and implement the right metrics that will accurately indicate the quality of the deliverables and the performance of the team. For example they measure tasks completed; rework they had to perform; the backlog list and the value of the product or service to the business at the end of each iteration. Teams display this information visually, updating it frequently. This makes progress transparent to business users and management. If senior managers require performance information to oversee projects, they define what the ‘must have’ data are. Performance reports for senior management become a task in each iteration and an output of the delivery team.

Collaboration - All stakeholders, including senior management, external assessors, business users and the development team should be partners in quality, and this collaborative approach is an essential change in mindset. The business owner and delivery team defines what ‘quality’ tests they will use and what results are acceptable at the outset of each iteration – the definition of ‘done’. Regular user feedback identifies whether the product or service is providing the expected business value at each stage. External assessors are not gatekeepers; rather they are an integral part of the team. The iterative approach ensures continual reviews and feedback on progress, so external assessors are not just involved at critical points as defined in a traditional project life cycle.

Focus on behaviours and not just processes and documentation - More specifically, the external reviews or assessments will be more effective in providing critical challenge if the assessors have high-end skills, including technical and Agile delivery experience. In addition, they provide better value if they continually review how the team is performing, using observation as their main method of evidence collection. The focus of such external review or assessment shall be on the following:
  • the skills and experience of the team;
  • the team dynamics – frequency and nature of communication inside and outside of the delivery team, and the level of input to the delivery team from the business;
  • the organisational culture – the level of commitment and openness;
  • the timing and nature of quality control by the delivery team – the testing and release framework;
  • the order in which the team tackled the tasks – prioritisation of actions and deliverables, the amount of actions in the backlog list;
  • the way the team changes its activity in response to the results achieved in each iteration; and
  • the value of outputs to the business.

IBM's Disciplined Agile Delivery Methodology


IBM believes Agile delivery allows it to continually issue new capabilities that meet user needs. It usually introduces software as part of a wider business change project so, to keep both in step, it has developed several Agile project methodologies. Disciplined Agile Delivery is a hybrid method that can be applied by a large number of teams working on the same project at the same time. The image below shows the Disciplined Agile Delivery life cycle. It starts with a few short iterations that allow the team and its stakeholders to identify the initial requirements, develop the architecture and agree a release plan. IBM also uses this to determine the system level properties and characteristics – the non-functional requirements. There are iterations after the business owner has decided that the system has sufficient functionality. These additional iterations are necessary for IBM to support the operation and maintenance of the solution once it is in service.



In contrast to the traditional approach of looking at outputs, plans, resourcing and how a project is organised, external assessors should focus on outcomes, prioritisation of work and team dynamics. The most useful indicators of success are how the teams are organising the delivery of an operational service or capability and what Agile behaviours and practices are used. Areas for assessment include whether:
system level issues (security, availability) are addressed within the iterations;
  • short- and longer-term planning exists;
  • the stakeholders have a shared vision;
  • there is continuous integration; and
  • the team has the right people


Reference:

National Audit Office's Review on Governance of Agile Delivery