Livestock Improvement Goes Agile

[article]

Identifying the Pain Points
Since its formation in 2007, farm systems had used traditional waterfall development methods. Although we always managed to deliver to the customer, projects were generally completed over time and over budget. This was not working for our customers or for our staff. The traditional waterfall methods were proving too cumbersome for a fast-moving, customer-driven product range.

In order to be responsive to customers’ needs, we needed to do the following:

  • Provide product managers with early visibility of what was being developed.
  • Engage and work with customers.
  • Plan to re-plan by providing customers with the ability to change scope during the development phase without major productivity loss or increased cost.
  • Be more responsive to changes in the market or economy.

Subsequent to the release of the latest version of the LIC’s Animal Management System (MINDA) product, the team held a post-implementation review to identify challenges and learning opportunities. We had good metrics and were able to identify what had happened through the development process. By reviewing the requirements work done in the previous twelve months and comparing the resultant product, we identified that 40 percent of the requirements work was wasted. The delivered product had 50 percent of the initial requirements implemented, along with many new features that were not initially planned for.

Table 1 shows the time spent on items that were subsequently de-scoped. Table 2 shows the time that was spent on rework with respect to analysis, testing, and development. Approximately one quarter of the total project budget could have been saved.

Stage

Hours

Rate

Dollars $

Business Analysis

384

$100/hour

$38,400

Development

104

$100/hour

$10,400

Technical writin

212.8

$40/hour

$8,512

Table 1

Stage

Hours

Rate

Dollars $

Development rework

1,420

$100/hour

$142,000

Analysis (document updates)

200

$100/hour

$20,000

Test script updates

240

$90

$21,600

Table 2

In order to address these concerns, we held a two-day facilitated workshop in June 2009 with participants from farm systems, IT, and the project management office. An important part of the workshop was for the team to identify pain points in the current development methodology and how they impacted the successful delivery of software projects.

The following identified pain points covered the whole gamut of communication and waste, which have become synonymous with software development projects:

  • Lack of role clarity
  • Unclear and changing business needs
  • Cumbersome change-management processes
  • Impact of multitasking
  • Poor estimating, resulting in unrealistic workloads
  • Lack of visibility of project status

About the author

Jenny Saunders's picture Jenny Saunders

Jenny Saunders has worked in the IT industry for a variety of organizations and varying disciplines over the last twenty-three years. Eighteen of those years have been in the UK working for the banking sector, automation industry, electronics retail industry and the Metropolitan Police. For the last five years she has been based in Hamilton, New Zealand working for Livestock Improvement Corporation; managing the Farm Systems Software Development Group, who are responsible for delivering, maintaining and supporting their customer facing software technology products.

About the author

Shane Hastie's picture Shane Hastie

Shane Hastie (@shanehastie) is the Chief Knowledge Engineer and Agile Practice Lead for Software Education (www.softed.com) a training and consulting company working in New Zealand & Australia. Since first using XP in 2000 Shane's been passionate about helping organisations and teams adopt Agile practices. Shane is a key member of Software Education's Agile Practice, offering training, consulting, mentoring and support for organisations and teams working to improve their project outcomes. In August 2011 he was elected to the board of the Agile Alliance (www.agilealliance.org).  Shane is a news editor for InfoQ (http://www.infoq.com/author/Shane-Hastie) and he blogs on the Software Education Trainers Blog (http://blog.softed.com/)

 

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