The Borland Agile Journey

[article]
An Executive Perspective on Enterprise Transformation
Summary:

I begin this story by declaring up front that I am not an "Agilist" or process evangelist. I am the senior software development executive in a company responsible for delivering products to the marketplace. Like my peers across industries, I am fundamentally held accountable by my company for consistently delivering business results. Process and methodologies are important in delivering this value, but in the eyes of the company they are secondary to meeting the needs of the business.

When I joined Borland 2 years ago, we had two Agile "pilot teams" in place; today 60 percent (and growing) of the organization delivers our products to the market through an Agile approach. This is the story of our journey into Agile, chronicling the decisions and observations of our ongoing transformation from the eyes of a senior software executive.

Situation Analysis: Snapshot of a Traditional Software Delivery Organization

Borland's product organization consists of over 350 personnel in five primary geographic locations, including development sites in Asia and Europe. It is a development shop organized into teams of 12-35 engineers delivering a very broad portfolio of products, which contain the typical mix of new and sustaining work projects that are consistent with both ISVs and corporate IT shops.

As a 25-year-old company, Borland has gone through a number of changes throughout its lifetime. In the process, it has acquired a number of companies in many different locations throughout the globe. My charter was to introduce stronger operational oversight, reduce costs and boost the organization's efficiency and quality. I decided to overhaul the organization, and one of the components of this effort would be to broaden our use of Agile.

The First Step: From Grassroots Movement to Disciplined Implementation

In my investigation and observation of the usage of Agile within Borland, I soon discovered that we had multiple Agile cultures emerging. The teams that were experimenting with Agile all varied in their states of maturity and level of commitment.

As a result of these fractured efforts, each of the locations was undergoing a separate transformation and this meant that we were developing several independent Agile cultures. What became obvious was that if we were going to expand the use of Agile throughout the organization, we would have to transition it from a grassroots effort to a more disciplined and structured rollout.

In shifting from an adhoc to a more structured adoption of Agile, we made three key decisions. The first was to make our executive commitment much more visible. We had to show the teams through our actions and words that we were going to be enablers of this transformation.

Next, we decided to appoint a single Scrum Master/Agile Process Specialist who would be responsible for driving the overall definition of "Borland Agile." The third decision we made was to take a stepwise and iterative rollout approach. There would be no hollow mandated Agile "light switch" in which everyone would begin transforming immediately. We realized that we had to face the reality of making a major process transformation while still executing on a pretty aggressive product roadmap.

Sold on Agile: Successful Pilot Paves the Way for Organizational Transformation

One of the first projects we designated as an official "Borland Agile" project was the development of a high-priority new product that would be a key part of Borland's next-generation suite of products. In December of 2006, this project was divided across multiple locations and teams. While the release date was only eight months away, progress on the project was stalled. I made the decision to consolidate the project into one location - the location we had designated as our "flagship" for the Borland Agile transformation.

We successfully made the transition, released the product 10 days early with more features than originally planned, and established one of the closest customer relationships I have witnessed in my career. This is the point at which I became hooked on the potential of Agile and Scrum.

Once we had achieved success with a few pilot projects, the next step was to expand our use of Scrum, completing

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