Andy Jordan PMP is the founder and president of Roffensian Consulting. Andy is a seasoned business professional with experience in many industries on two continents. After a career managing high profile, business critical projects for many organisations Andy moved into leadership of project management offices and built a reputation for building, rescuing and improving this key function. His approach of tailoring processes to the style and ability of the organisation, and focusing on the development of project staff rather than the short sighted approach of meeting project deliverables at all costs has repeatedly shown dramatic results.
I guess it’s obvious to say that application development and delivery has changed dramatically in recent years. The acceptance of agile as a mainstream project execution approach has had the most profound impact on application development for very good reason--it is ideally suited to developing products and features. At the same time, the move away from physical media delivery to downloads has allowed one-person startups and multinationals to compete on a level playing field--no more do you need access to a huge retail network and the overheads of packaging and production to get your product to market.
Those are all areas that have been very well documented, but in the midst of all that there is another change happening…and that’s what I want to look at here.
The shift in control Historically, the control over how applications would be developed and delivered rested firmly with the vendor. They would likely consult with key customers to understand what they were looking for in future upgrades, would make sure that they were in touch with industry trends and would generally try to make sure that products aligned with market and customer needs in terms of functionality. But when it came to other elements, the vendor was squarely in control:
Packaging of features and components--there might have been a number of different levels, but the vendor would decide how the product would be sold.
Infrastructure needs--again there might have been a SQL version and an Oracle version, but the vendor would tell the customer how the application would need to be installed and configured, and what the hardware needs were.
Release schedule--the vendor would have a relatively slow major release schedule, one or two functional releases per year with maintenance/bug fix releases in between.
Professional services--complex applications would require extended deployment periods with complex process integration and training.
Question: My team prefers to work in Story Points, but it sometimes becomes hard to deal with the realities of how to estimate a first iteration and how to deal with the availability of the team members. How do experienced agile teams handle these realities?
If you want to be agile, you must estimate in Story Points. Nothing else will really work for a team once they begin to do the work of the project.
Neither is the correct approach. Estimate your Product Backlog in Ideal Hours, and then they will transfer over easily to the iteration work of the team.
If you create software, use Story Points. If you use agile for any other type of project, estimate in work hours, which you can input into MS Project.
Use Story Points for the Product Backlog, but actual hours for the Iteration Backlog.
How does a project manager bridge the gap between understanding and experience? For PMs who are starting out in the field or who haven't mastered everything under the sun, it can always be beneficial to gain practical experience in different areas so that they have a better understanding of how things should be done.
In the journey to PMP fitness, you have taken three decisive steps. But many PMs have not had the opportunity to participate in a suite of courses where most knowledge areas are explored from a combined approach of PMI theory and real-world application. While this can put you at a real disadvantage, it’s still possible to be successful. In out latest installment, we cover Project Integration Management.
In the last few years, this control has shifted almost completely to the customer. Partly this is as a result of the changes identified in the first paragraph--technology has helped to break the domination of industry giants and smaller organizations have had to differentiate themselves on flexibility and ease of use--a one -erson software shop can’t rely on complex professional services needs because they can’t fulfill those services. Additionally, agile has given the customer a much stronger voice in feature development, and it’s a tradeoff that has worked for both sides.
Regardless of how it has happened, it’s a trend that is going to continue. As soon as one vendor offers the flexibility to upgrade and patch on demand, all of their competitors will be expected to do the same--and if they don’t, they will rapidly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
The impact of the change So what does all of this mean for application development and delivery, and especially for project management? Well, it changes the fundamental structure of the applications that we develop:
Flexible features that can be packaged in a number of different ways
User-friendly and intuitive interfaces
Modular development that can be released as standalone elements
Platform independent (or at least multi-platform) deployment models
This is a fundamental shift and needs us to stop thinking of a single application, but rather as a number of different modules that work together to deliver the full product experience. Projects are likely to shift from a relatively low number of high-effort year product development initiatives to a higher number of shorter, lower-effort projects that deliver upgrades to one or more modules and can be delivered independent of other elements of the product.
The development of vastly more sophisticated web browsers has made it easier to envisage powerful and intuitive user interfaces, but to take advantage of them we need to ensure that the interface design is a fundamental part of each new feature development project--a shift from the historic approach where the product team would frequently decide how the product would look. Of course the design and other product elements should be developed in collaboration with our customer base to ensure that we are delivering something that our customer base wants to purchase--ease of use also means that it is easier to switch to a competitor if we misjudge the market.
Conclusion This isn’t an article full of project management tips, but PMs have a key role to play in modern product development. If you are working with a product manager who isn’t embracing a modular, customer-focused, flexible approach to developing and deploying their product, then you may find yourself managing a project for a product that the market views as obsolete.
The era of cloud computing is incredibly changing the technology offerings . This is really good to offer product releases /patches downloadable taking full benefit of the browser sophistications.Time to market is one of the key competitive edge this sort of arrangement has made it possible. Very well written article sir =)
"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."