The Agile Difference for SCM

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Change Tracking and Story Cards

Tracking and reporting the status and content of requests and changes across many artifacts and activities can be extremely unwieldy. We often require sophisticated tools to assist us in this complex and tedious endeavor. Agile approaches strive to minimize the number and size of non-code artifacts that are created. Fewer artifacts and documents mean fewer items to tracked, with less effort and complexity to track them.

XP teams use physical story cards for project planning and status reporting, whereas in traditional software development, tools such as defect trackers are used to track defects electronically and provide workflow, etc. Tools bring the advantage that requirements/changes/defects can be tracked, reported and versioned rather easily to those not in the immediate physical proximity the information radiator (the wall or whiteboard showing the story-cards and progress charts).

In the case of XP, its proponents say index cards are preferred in favor of tools. Their physical limitations force developers and customers to keep things short and simple, and physically associate a request, its corresponding requirements, and its tests with the same physical artifact (in XP, the customer acceptance tests are the detailed requirements). Scrum and other agile methods appear to be less insistent upon the use of index cards and less resistant to the use of tools (such as spreadsheets or change/request tracking systems).

Most experienced change and configuration managers would gasp at the seemingly low-tech inefficiency of index cards as means to track and report conformance and status. At the same time, it is hard to combat the efficacy of index cards to engage customers in a more participative and collaborative dialogue for eliciting requirements and drawing simple diagrams.

And yet even the simplest of spreadsheets and tracking tools provides a mechanism for fast and easy reporting, querying, searching, sorting, as well as for real-time dissemination across the project’s organization and stakeholder-sites (not to mention affording more efficient and reliable storage, record retention, archival, and retrieval/recovery). Keeping stories in a tool also lets you apply a simple workflow see how the work is progressing.

The reality is that it doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. By keeping things as simple as possible and remembering to prefer face-to-face interaction over face-to-machine interaction, the right amount of process using a simple and smart tool can yield the best combination of increased productivity and better coordination. The bottom line is to do what you know works for you and to keep it as simple as possible, applying the principles of lean development every step of the way.

What Happened to Traceability?
Don’t you still need traceability? Even if you don’t use it to assist with impact analysis or estimation, don’t you still need traceability to ensure your software conforms to its promised functionality, or to ensure compliance with

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About the author

Brad Appleton's picture Brad Appleton

Brad Appleton is a software CM/ALM solution architect and lean/agile development champion at a large telecommunications company. Currently he helps projects and teams adopt and apply lean/agile development and CM/ALM practices and tools. He is coauthor of the bookSoftware Configuration Management Patterns, a columnist in The CM Journal and The Agile Journal at CMCrossroads.com, and a former section editor for The C++ Report. You can read Brad's blog at blog.bradapp.net.

About the author

Steve Berczuk's picture Steve Berczuk

Steve Berczuk is a Principal Engineer and Scrum Master at Fitbit. The author of Software Configuration Management Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration, he is a recognized expert in software configuration management and agile software development. Steve is passionate about helping teams work effectively to produce quality software. He has an M.S. in operations research from Stanford University and an S.B. in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and is a certified, practicing ScrumMaster. Contact Steve at steve@berczuk.com or visit berczuk.com and follow his blog at blog.berczuk.com.

About the author

Robert Cowham's picture Robert Cowham

Robert Cowham has long been interested in software configuration management while retaining the attitude of a generalist with experience and skills in many aspects of software development. A regular presenter at conferences, he authored the Agile SCM column within the CM Journal together with Brad Appleton and Steve Berczuk. His day job is as Services Director for Square Mile Systems whose main focus is on skills and techniques for infrastructure configuration management and DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) - applying configuration management principles to hardware documentation and implementation as well as mapping ITIL services to the underlying layers.

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