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View Posts By:

Scott Ambler
Glen Little
Mark Lines
Valentin Mocanu
Daniel Gagnon
Michael Richardson
Joshua Barnes

Recent Posts

Failure Bow: Choosing Between Life Cycles Flowchart Update

Evolving Disciplined Agile: Guidelines of the DA Mindset

Evolving Disciplined Agile: Promises of the DA Mindset

Evolving Disciplined Agile: Principles of the DA Mindset

Evolving Disciplined Agile: The DA Mindset

Comparing DAD to the Rational Unified Process (RUP) - Part 2

This post is a follow-up to Comparing DAD to the Rational Unified Process (RUP) – Part 1.  In that post I described in some detail why Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) is not “Agile RUP”.  DAD is quite different in both approach and content.  There are however some very good principles that the Unified Process (UP) incorporates that are not part of mainstream agile methods.  This post describes what parts of the UP made it into the DA toolkit.

DAD suggests a full delivery lifecycle approach similar to RUP.  DAD recognizes that despite some agile rhetoric projects do indeed go through specific phases.  RUP explicitly has four phases for Inception, Elaboration, Construction, and Transition.  For reasons that I described in the last post, DAD does not include an explicit Elaboration phase.  However the milestone for Elaboration is still in DAD which I will describe shortly.  As the DAD basic lifecycle diagram shows, DAD has three of the four RUP phases.

DAD Agile Project Lifecycle

  • The Inception phase.  An important aspect  of DAD is its explicit inclusion of an Inception phase where project initiation activities occur.  As Scott Ambler says in one of his posts “Although phase tends to be a swear word within the agile community, the reality is that the vast majority of teams do some up front work at the beginning of a project.  While some people will mistakenly refer to this effort as Sprint/Iteration 0 it is easy to observe that on average this effort takes longer than the general perception (the 2009 Agile Project Initiation survey  found the average agile team spends 3.9 weeks in Inception)”.  So in DAD’s Inception phase (usually one iteration) we do some very lightweight visioning activities to properly frame the project.  The milestone for this phase is to obtain “Stakeholder consensus” on how to proceed.  In the book we describe various strategies to get through the Inception phase as quickly as possible, what needs to be done, and how to get stakeholders consensus.
  • The Construction phase.  This phase can be viewed as a set of iterations (Sprints in Scrum parlance) to build increments of the solution.  Within each iteration the team applies a hybrid of practices from Scrum, XP, Agile modeling, Agile data, and other methods to deliver the solution.  DAD recommends a risk-value approach of prioritizing work in the early iterations which draws from the RUP principle of mitigating risk as early as possible in the project by proving the architecture with a working solution.  We therefore balance delivering high-value work with delivering work related to mitigating these architectural risks.  Ideally we deliver stories/features in the early iteration that deliver functionality related to both high business value and risk mitigation (hence DAD’s “risk-value” lifecycle). It is worthwhile to have a checkpoint at the end of the early iterations to verify that indeed our technical risks have been addressed.  DAD has an explicit milestone for this called “Proven architecture”.  This is similar to the RUP Elaboration milestone without risking the confusion that the Elaboration phase often caused for RUP implementations.  All agile methods seek to deliver value into the hands of the stakeholders as quickly as possible.  In many if not most large enterprises it is difficult to actually deliver new increments of the solution at the end of each iteration.  DAD therefore recognizes this reality and assumes that in most cases there will be a number of iterations of Construction before the solution is actually deployed to the customer.  As we make clear in the book, although this is the classic DAD pattern, you should strive to be able to release your solution on a much more frequent basis in the spirit of  achieving the goal of “continuous delivery”.  The milestone for the end of Construction is that we have “Sufficient functionality” to deploy to the stakeholders.  This is the same milestone as the RUP’s Construction milestone.  During the Construction phase it may make sense to periodically review the progress of the project against the vision agreed to in Inception and potentially adjust course.  These optional milestones in DAD are referred to as “Project viability”.
  • The Transition phase.  DAD recognizes that for sophisticated enterprise agile projects often deploying the solution to the stakeholders is not a trivial exercise.  To account for this reality DAD incorporates the RUP Transition phase which is usually one short iteration.  As DAD teams, as well as the enterprise overall streamline their deployment processes this phase should become shorter and ideally disappear over time as continuous deployment becomes possible.  RUP’s Transition milestone is achieved when the customer is satisfied and self-sufficient.  DAD changes this to “Delighted stakeholders”.  This is similar to lean’s delighted customers but we recognize that in an enterprise there are more stakeholders to delight than just customers, such as production support for instance.  One aspect of RUP’s Transition phase is that it is not clear on when during the phase deployments actually take place.  Clearly stakeholders aren’t delighted and satisfied the day the solution goes “live”.  There is usually a period of stabilization, tuning, training etc. before the stakeholders are completely happy.  So DAD has a mid-Transition milestone called “Production ready”.  Some people formalize this as a “go/no go” decision.

So in summary, DAD frames an agile project within the context of an end-to-end risk-value lifecycle with specific milestones to ensure that the project is progressing appropriately.  These checkpoints give specific opportunities to change course, adapt, and progress into the next phases of the project.  While the lifecycle is similar to that of RUP, as described in Part 1 of this post it is important to realize that the actual work performed within the iterations is quite different and far more agile than a typical RUP project.

At Scott Ambler + Associates we are getting a lot of inquiries from companies seeking help to move from RUP to the more agile yet disciplined approach that DAD provides.

Posted by Mark Lines on: November 11, 2012 11:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Comparing DAD to the Rational Unified Process (RUP) - Part 1

Last week I was discussing DAD with a new client and he asked me “Is DAD just an Agile version of RUP?”  In a word, no.  DAD is a toolkit composed of a hybrid of methods and practices as shown in the diagram.  It includes the best of Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Agile data and modeling, and yes, the Unified Process (UP).  DAD also includes additional content such as agile governance that is not present in any of these methods.  As the diagram indicates, probably the method that adds most to DAD is XP, not the UP.
The Rational Unified Process (RUP) started as a small manageable process framework targeted specifically for building software within the context of an iterative lifecycle.  However over time, Rational (and subsequently IBM) added additional guidance and artifacts to extend the applicability of RUP to all sorts of projects, such as package implementation, maintenance projects, technology specific guidance (J2EE, .Net etc.), systems engineering and may other project types.  It became unwieldy and hard to understand and apply successfully.  In fact it is frequently misused (with the Elaboration phase often being treated as a big requirements upfront (BRUF) phase as an example).  This misuse has been described by Julian Holmes as RINO (RUP in name only).  To be clear, RUP properly applied in the right circumstances can be very effective.  Unfortunately though, that often does not happen.  One of the issues with applying the RUP framework to different types of projects is that it is described as a “Use case-driven” approach.  Specifying requirements as use cases, and then creating component-based architecture from these use case realizations is fundamental to RUP.  This presents challenges for maintenance projects or package implementations where it may not make sense to produce use cases at all.

DAD does not prescribe a use case-driven approach, or insist that OOAD be rigorously applied to build out services/components.  A use case-driven approach is a potential practice to apply but there is a danger that this could lead to an exhaustive requirements specification which is not particularly agile.  We would prefer to use a user story-driven approach if that makes sense within the context of your project.  User stories might not be the right choice either.  Perhaps you are in a regulatory environment that demands a traditional software requirements specification (SRS).  The key point is that you will have to adapt to the situation that you find yourself in.  This is why we prioritize the team’s work with a work item list comprised of work items, rather than Scrum’s backlog comprised of user stories.  Using a work item list allows us the flexibility to put any type of work onto our backlog, extending the applicability of DAD to many types of projects beyond those for which RUP or Scrum would be ideally suited.

DAD is goal-driven, not artifact-driven.  It does not prescribe practices or specific artifacts.  Rather, it suggests alternative strategies than can be applied at certain parts of the lifecycle with the pros and cons for each, but which ones you choose is up to you.

In my next post I will describe which aspects of the Unified Process did make it into DAD and why.

Posted by Mark Lines on: August 25, 2012 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The DAD Role of Architecture Owner

As you can see from the above diagram, the DAD primary roles are similar to those of Scrum.  In Scrum, the product owner decides what will be built and in what order.  In DAD we recognize that architecture is a key source of project risk and someone needs to be responsible for ensuring the team mitigates this risk.  As a result DAD explicitly includes Agile Modeling’s role of architecture owner. The architecture owner is the person who owns the architecture decisions for the team and who facilitates the creation and evolution of the overall solution design.  The person in the role of team lead will often also be in the role of architecture owner.  This isn’t always the case, particularly at scale, but it is very common for smaller agile teams.

The responsibilities of the architecture owner include:

  • Guiding the creation and evolution of the architecture of the solution that the team is working on.  Note that the architecture owner is not solely responsible for the architecture, but that they lead the technical discussions.
  • Mentoring and coaching other team members in architecture practices and issues.
  • Working closely with the Enterprise Architecture team, and often being a member of it, to understand and evolve the architectural direction and standards of your organization.
  • Ensuring that the team adheres to the architectural direction and standards of your organization.
  • Understanding existing enterprise assets such as frameworks, patterns, subsystems and ensuring that the team uses them where appropriate.
  • Ensuring that the solution will be easy to support by encouraging good design and refactoring to minimize technical debt.
  • Ensuring that the solution is integrated and tested on a regular basis, ideally via the practice of continuous integration(CI).
  • Having the final say regarding technical decisions, but they try to avoid dictating the architectural direction in favor of a collaborative, team-based approach. The architecture owner should work very closely with the team lead to identify and determine strategies to mitigate key project technical risks.
  • Leads the initial architecture envisioning effort at the beginning of the project and supports the initial requirements envisioning effort (particularly when it comes to understanding and evolving the non-functional requirements for the solution).

One of the key reasons for having this role in DAD is that the architecture owner, like the product owner, has a say in work items that are added and prioritized in the work item list (backlog in Scrum parlance).  While business value is certainly a prime determinant of priorities, completing work related to mitigating technical risks is also important.  Additionally, a DAD goal is to deliver consumable solutions, not just working software.  As such, sometimes it is necessary to add work items that are technical in nature, for example related to error logging/monitoring.  Or perhaps work items need to be added to improve the continuous integration and deployment processes.

We have found that the concept of having both product and architecture owners ensures that the solution addresses both functional and quality requirements such as usability and supportability adequately.  In fact, on my current project, I worked with the product and architecture owners to negotiate their priorities such that the iteration underway includes not only a selection of high priority stories, but also a set of technical work items related to hardening the solution in preparation for entering the Transition phase of delivering the solution to the stakeholders.  Without a specific role of architecture owner, it can be difficult to escalate important technical work into the work item list.  As a result it is often done subversively without the knowledge of the product owner which is not a healthy practice, or worse it never gets done resulting in a poor quality solution.

Scott has written a good article that describes the architecture owner role in more depth.  You can view it here.
Posted by Mark Lines on: May 28, 2012 08:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

No role in DAD for an Analyst?

Why does DAD not have an explicit role for an Analyst?  This is a hot topic for those in this profession, and a subject that I have been asked to talk on, notably for the IIBA.  Without question classically trained analysts bring much needed soft skills and a structured approach to requirements elicitation and negotiation which may not be present in the other roles such as a product owner or a developer.  However, having these skills alone is not enough in an agile and lean world.

Unfortunately, professional organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA) tend to encourage us to seek specialization and certifications over being cross-functional team members, which will be far more effective and valuable in the future.  This is not to say that these organizations do not deliver value in developing and maintaining standards of professional conduct and capability.  Attaining certifications (that require some degree of commitment and experience beyond a 2-day workshop) demonstrate commitment to a professional specialty.  This is admirable but I would suggest that this base of knowledge is just the start of being an effective team member on an agile project.  We should look outside our area of specialty to learn all we can about other aspects of software development.

It is my belief that in the near future, analysts will need to be competent testers if they intend to prosper in their profession.  An increasingly important skill is the ability to write requirements as executable tests.  My advice to analysts is to learn as much as you can about agile testing and seek opportunities to write your requirements as tests wherever possible.

For Business Analysts that are not interested in moving more toward the testing end of the spectrum there is another way to go.  Analysts can be good Product Owners, representing the customer on the project and by managing the scope and priorities.  In this role they can use their elicitation and facilitation skills to gain a clear understanding of what the customer needs (vs. wants).

Another potential career path is for the BA to move more into the area of traditional management consulting.  The IIBA is positioning the Business Analyst profession to be more strategic, identifying the need to have them present at the management table when key decisions are made regarding how the business and its architecture should evolve.  Our book on Disciplined Agile Delivery is about agile software development.  But not all business issues are solved by software.  Often it is the business process that needs to be fixed, and this is where traditional Business Analysis skills will always be needed.

In my opinion, one career path for analysts is going the way of the dinosaur though.  And unfortunately this career path is often the status quo.  Traditional projects expect Business Analysts to document business processes and requirements in batch up-front in a linear, waterfall fashion.  They then must obtain sign-offs before actually proceeding with implementing any of the requirements.  Subsequent changes to those requirements are discouraged, unless through a formal, time consuming and wasteful Change Request process.  This model clearly is flawed, and eventually most companies will change their approach.  High ceremony and bureaucratic organizations such as government will be the slowest to adapt, but private companies in a competitive environment will adapt their requirements capture approach to a more agile alternative or risk being left behind by their competitors that will be more “agile” in adapting both their business processes and the solutions that support them.

Posted by Mark Lines on: February 13, 2012 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why do we need DAD?

I’m writing this from the Agile Business Conference in London where I did a talk on DAD yesterday. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to go into DAD in depth. A gentleman approached me today, saying that he is very interested in learning more about DAD but is not sure why it is needed with all the other methods out there,

This is a very good question, and I guess I should have been more clear in my talk. First of all, DAD is not a new method, but rather a general framework from which you can pick some “good ideas” which might makes sense for your organization or project. It also adds some structure that is missing from most agile methods. Here are some reasons that we think that the toolkit is worthwhile:

  • DAD is a hybrid of leading agile methods, bringing together a set of complimentary practices from methods such as Scrum, XP, Agile Modeling, Lean, & the Unified Process
  • most existing methods such as Scrum, do not have practices related to the full lifecyle (by design). Scrum for instance is focused mainly on management, rather than say, architecture. DADs hybrid approach harvests leading practices from across the lifecycle
  • DAD goes beyond agile rhetoric and acknowledges that certain enterprise practices don’t go away with agile, such as the need to collaborate with other projects, enterprise authorities such as architecture, database , and PMOs
  • an explicit recognition that most enterprise projects go through startup (Inception) and deployment (Transition) phases
  • DAD avoids branded terminology such as “sprint” and rather uses common sense terminology that is understandable regardless of one’s methodology preference

DAD is meant to help promote and simplify proven agile practices, not replace them.  Rather than having to say “our shop does Scrum, with some XP practices, a bit of Kanban, etc…”, why not say that you are using DAD? You can choose from any of the techniques from these methods without some agilist criticizing you that “you are not doing Scrum actually because it doesn’t believe in the XYZ practice that you are using from ABC method”

If you are doing Scrum now, for instance, you could currently say that you are using DAD, as its guidance is a subset of practices you could use in DAD, As you add agile capability, and want accelerate your projects and increase quality, or add some required scaling techniques, you could draw additional ideas from DAD. BUT only if required and makes sense for you.

In summary, DAD provides a breadth of non-prescriptive guidance (good ideas that MIGHT make sense for you) with non-branded ideas that go beyond traditional agile methods to help deal with enterprise considerations that are a reality on most non-trivial projects.

Posted by Mark Lines on: October 06, 2011 07:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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