Livestock Improvement Goes Agile

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One Year Later: The Impact of the New Practices
One year after implementing the agile practices, we have realized some some clear, measurable benefits. For the business sponsor, we have seen visibility and ownership leading to the right product’s being delivered within time, scope, and budget. Release cycles for the core MINDA product have gone from one per year to the ability to release one every two months, which has resulted in greater customer involvement, visibility, and customer satisfaction. The teams are now delivering what the customer wants and providing real team spirit, pride, and ownership.

Collaboration across the whole team has been a key to the success. Business sponsors and product managers are integral members of the team, engaged from the very beginning of the projects and interacting with the rest of the team throughout the project. Product managers attend the daily standups and take ownership and responsibility for providing direction for product development, ensuring that what is built meets the needs of the market.

Product quality is measurably higher, both in terms of marketplace success and more mundane measures of software quality, including defect density and product maintainability. Defects reported in production have dropped substantially, and changes are easier to implement due to the internal quality of the code.

The teams actively take ownership of their own practices, drawing from a menu of techniques and tools that have been identified as working well in the farm systems environment.

Conclusion
The LIC agile transformation has been a cultural change, moving from silo-based streams of work that delivered high-quality products thanks to the heroic efforts of the team to cross-functional, collaborative teams working at a sustainable pace and consistently delivering customer value in a predictive manner. Although the transformation has not been without challenges, the iterative model enables the teams to get rapid feedback from the product management group. Responding to changing business priorities is no longer a stressful change-management exercise, but rather a simple replanning activity at the beginning of the next iteration.

Our business owners have stated that:

  • We are more customer driven. We have happier product managers and customers due to early visibility of product builds, which means we can effectively manage feedback and change. We are delivering the right products.
  • We are delivering higher-quality products with significantly lower defects, which means greater customer satisfaction as measured by customers’ trust in our products.
  • We are all working together to achieve the vision by supporting and learning from each other and having fun while doing it.

The first project to be delivered using the agile methodology ( a farm automation product called Ezheat) caused LIC CEO Mark Dewdney to say, “The change to agile techniques has been transformational. The farm systems group is truly delivering software faster, better, and cheaper.” Cooperation and communication is high, and even the remote team members feel that they are a part of a successful, high-performance team making a positive contribution to their farmer customers’ businesses.

workshop

Figure 3. A team workshop including a remote team member

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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