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Disciplined Agile

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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)

Injecting Transition iterations into your Release plan

For complex agile projects, deploying (or transitioning) the release to a “live” environment for the users is seldom a trivial exercise.  Most large enterprises have defined milestones, gates, and or reviews that need to be coordinated with many diverse stakeholder groups such as users, governance bodies (such as Project Management Offices), DevOps, and marketing before the application can be released.  In DAD we therefore describe a distinct set of activities to prepare our stakeholders for the release and support of the new application.  This could include activities such as user training, data conversion, documentation, hardware deployment, preparing customer support, database tuning, and last minute defect fixing.  To recognize the clear difference from a typical Construction iteration, we describe iterations dedicated to deployment as “Transition” iterations.  The illustration shows how we can inject iterations into our release schedule to deploy increments to the user community.  In this example, after the fourth Construction iteration, we may have an additional set of features representing a minimally marketable release that is worthy of a Transition iteration to deliver the value to the users.

When we have an application that needs to be delivered over multiple releases, following the Transition phase we may start work on a new release by continuing the Construction phase.  Since we would typically have an existing work item list (backlog) of outstanding requirements, we can simply pull more requirements off this stack and continue to build more functionality.  In this way, it may not be necessary to have another Inception phase unless the vision has materially changed and needs to be revisited.  Your organization may, however choose to run small Inception iterations at the beginning of each new release.

In this example, after the fourth Construction iteration, we may have an additional set of features representing a minimally marketable release that is worthy of a Transition iteration to deliver the value to the users.

Some people mistakenly interpret DAD as one deployment to the customer at the end of the project.  If possible, we prefer to deploy frequently, in support of the agile alliance principle “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software”.  Our minor quibble with this principle is that what we deliver to the customer is a “solution”, which may not only include software, but also business process changes, training, or marketing activities, for example.  Our experience is that large projects typically involve a lot of work beyond the software itself which can also benefit from agile collaborative practices.

Injecting Transition iterations to deploy increments to customers

While the illustration refers to each iteration delivering a “potentially shippable” increment, which is what the agile community typically calls it, we actually prefer to use the term “consumable” to indicate that it not only works, but it is also actually usable by the customer.
________________

In our upcoming book we discuss patterns like these with considerations for what might make sense for your program or project in various circumstances.

Posted by Mark Lines on: January 07, 2012 04:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Product owner issues in the Transition phase of large agile projects

Captain Barbossa

Mainstream agile methods would suggest that we should have one product owner, being the “one” voice of the customer for matters related to release/iteration scope, priorities, and requirements clarification.

The reality that I see on most enterprise agile projects is that the product owner cannot possibly manage the work item list themselves.  In fact, they are often not the best person to do this prioritization.  I wish it were as easy as managing epics and user stories.

On my current project, we are in the process of taking ownership of a very large application built offshore.  In DAD, we would describe this as the Transition phase of the product as we deploy the solution to our stakeholders.  We will take over the build, deployment, support and enhancement going forward.  This is a team of 20+ with responsibilities spanning development, infrastructure, and devops.  Due to the complexity of the rollout we are doing it over a number of Transition iterations.

A simplistic view would suggest that the Program Manager is our product owner.  At the end of the day he may have ultimate responsibility, but he is not collocated, and deals with the larger issues of the project, such as vendor management, governance, funding, resourcing, and other related issues.  He delegates responsibility for the details to domain leads for the business, development, infrastructure and support.

My approach as the overall agile team lead is to treat the these traditional leads as product owners.  They each have their own work items and priorities such as:

Development team:

  • setting up VM images for development support of code
  • determining a source code management strategy for parallel streams of maintenance and enhancements
  • automation of continuous integration & deployment

Support team:

  • establishing a customer support strategy, with triage process, roles, on call schedules etc.

Infrastructure/DevOps team:

  • setting up automated jobs
  • performance tuning

Business:

  • change requests/stories
  • defects

All:

  • knowledge transfer between vendor and support team
  • satisfying stage gate acceptance criteria
  • documentation of procedures

For these work items, who is responsible for designating priorities, assigning to iterations, and iteration planning? The last question is the easiest to answer.  We let the team members doing the work do the task identification, estimating and assignment.  The other questions are a bit more tricky.  I don’t believe that any one person should determine the scope and prioriity of these diverse work items.  Rather, as team lead, I would prefer to let the team leads of infrastructure, customer support and development (traditionally might be PMs) to self-organize and advise me on their priorities and in which iteration their work items should be completed.  The summary of which is then reviewed with the Program Manager to assure alignment with the overall program’s goals.

Therefore what we are doing is co-managing the work item list with myself as facilitator.

This discussion shows some of the challenges in managing a DAD Transition iteration(s) using an agile approach.  I understand that the idea of having shared product ownership is not consist with methods such as Scrum.   However, in my world of large enterprise agile projects pragmatism trumps the agile “code”.  As Barbossa says in Pirates of the Caribbean, “the code is more what you call guidelines than actual rules“.

Posted by Mark Lines on: October 31, 2011 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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