Welcome!

Java Authors: Pat Romanski, Miguel Valdes Faura, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Java, SOA & WOA, AJAX & REA

Java: Article

Agile Adoption – Crossing the Chasm

Why is it so difficult to switch to agile process from waterfall?

Everybody acknowledges that IT has to plays a key role in any new service or product design. Therefore, IT needs to align with business and be flexible to changing business needs. It is a question of how to be agile rather than should we be agile. Then, why is there such a gulf between the people who evangelize agile processes and those who look at them with great suspicion?

Any application is built to satisfy a business goal. The process has two major steps where the step one is to define the application behavior which will help in meeting the business goal and the step two is to translate the application behavior to a working application. The definition of the application behavior is the requirement specification and it is the link between business and IT.

Business - IT

In the waterfall methodology, development starts after the requirement is frozen. It is assumed that if business users can unambiguously and comprehensively specify the application behavior, IT can build the application satisfying the stated behavior. All the management practices based on waterfall methodology is build around this assumption. However, in most real life project we find that one of the following things have happen.

  • The stated behavior as understood by the business is different from the understanding of IT
  • The stated behavior is a sub-optimal solution for the given business goal
  • The business goal has changed

As a result the final application does not meet the business goal. Then it becomes a blame game between business and IT, where business claims that "this is not what I wanted" and IT claims that "I have delivered as per your signed-off requirement". Since there is a gap between desired application and what is stated in the requirement, it is concluded that the root cause of the failure is improper requirement definition. In the next project more rigorous process is applied to make the requirement definition more comprehensive and as early in the lifecycle as possible. In spite of all these rigor, one of the most frequently cited reason for project failure is improper requirement management.

In current business context, is it possible to freeze requirement?

If we go back in time, most IT applications were written to automate internal processes. The emphasis was on adopting industry best practices. Vast majority of the user were internal to the organization and they had to adopt to the application interface rather than the application interface being tailored for the user needs. Times have changed and many of the IT applications are an integral part of the product or service offering. Significant part of the users are external to the organization. The focus has shifted from following the best practices to having innovative offering. The new motto is usability and user centric design. Though there are guidelines and principle available on how to design such application, in practice it involves many iterations where many idea needs to be tried before a workable solution is arrived at. Sometimes, applications may have to be modified very late in the development cycle. In such cases, though the requirement is driven by a business goal, business users are not always sure about how the system should behave. It is necessary to try out the application before taking decision on its suitability. To this we can add the changing business goal arising out of change in the environment.

If all these points are added up, it becomes clear that requirements will change.

This has led to the realization that we need agile processes which works when requirements are constantly changing rather than spending time and energy on freezing requirement. As a result agile processes were born. The key principle behind any agile processes is to have a mechanism where the users can try out the application as it is being built and give feedback so that:

  1. Gap in understanding is reduced
  2. Sub-optimal solution can be improved
  3. Application can be realigned to any change in business goal

It is easier to adopt agile methodology in letter than in spirit. An iterative development process becomes ineffective, unless user feedback is used to change and fine tune the application behavior. This may involve introduction of new features, discarding features and reprioritization of features. It is not always easy to reorient an organization entrenched in waterfall development. Not only it is necessity to change mind-set of the people involved, it is also imperative to modify some the key management practices.

Funding: How Is the Project Sanctioned?
Normal process of budgeting involves calculating return on investment, which in turn, requires both investment and the return on it to be quantified. Even when the requirement is clearly defined, arriving at an accurate effort estimate is an error prone exercise. When requirement is expected to change during the life of the project, it becomes almost impossible to have an accurate estimate up front. This becomes a hazardous exercise and in practice the estimate gets tuned to make the ROI look good. Once sanctioned, the budget becomes frozen and it acts as a great disincentive to allow flexibility in changing requirement mid way. The way out of this situation is to have a method of incremental funding of project. Initially funds can be made available for first few iterations and this sanction can be based on a reasonable accurate estimation. The scope of the project and the fund required can get progressively fine tuned. With incremental funding, it also becomes easier to detect unviable project much earlier in the lifecycle.

Interaction: Do Stakeholders Trust Each Other?
Change in requirement involves rework and it implies discarding work already done. IT has to trust that a specific change suggested by business is needed and could not be specified earlier. Similarly, a feature may look simple from outside but may involve considerable amount of programming effort. Business has to trust the effort estimate made IT. Both IT and business has to believe that understanding is progressive and any gap in understanding is neither deliberate nor because of incompetence or carelessness of the other party. It can be achieved by having transparency from both side. IT needs to establish a method of estimation and make it transparent. Similarly, business needs to share the business plan and explain the need for any change. Any change will involve unplanned effort, more effort than what is feasible within a given time frame. Feature will have to be re-prioritized and and the revised plan should have joint ownership.

Defect: What Is a Defect?
Standard method of measuring defect is to:

  1. Define and freeze the requirement
  2. Derive test cases from the requirement
  3. Use the test cases to test the software
  4. Measure the number of test cases that has failed

Zero defect software means all the identified test cases are passed. This does not in any way indicate that the software meet the business needs. Since, test cases can only be identified for the explicitly documented requirement, we need to move beyond that and reorient how defect is defined. Therefore, regardless of presence of any explicit test case, a defect is when the application ...

  • ... crashes
  • ... behaves in an illogical manner
  • ... does not behave in the manner expected by the user

The responsibility of identifying and eliminating first and second category of defect is with developers. The third category can not be done by the developers alone and needs an active involvement of the user.

Success: How Is It Measured?
Traditionally, the goal of successful project management has been to the deliver the application on time, within budget and without defect. All project managers are brought up on the belief that the key to achieve this is to freeze requirement and minimize rework. However, when the planned application is a part of a major product or service release, the cost of failed application can be many time to cost of the application. Therefore it is necessary to shift the paradigm and measure success in terms of satisfying business needs. It can only be done by an agile methodology which interactively refines requirement by allowing the user to work with and feel the application on a regular basis. When we look at some of the most successful software company we find that it is better to deliver the right application even though it may be late, over budget or have some bugs than to deliver the wrong application within budget, on time and without defect. The likes of Microsoft, Apple and even Google has slipped on their promised delivery and the delivered software are also not free form problem. That has not stopped them from becoming the more successful than anybody else in what they choose to do.

Related Posts

More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
Google

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness, and in-car entertainment and this excitement will bleed into other areas. On the commercial side, m...
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
As enterprises move to all-IP networks and cloud-based applications, communications service providers (CSPs) – facing increased competition from over-the-top providers delivering content via the Internet and independently of CSPs – must be able to offer seamless cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions that can scale for small, midsize, and large enterprises, as well as public sector organizations, in order to keep and grow market share. The latest version of Oracle Communications Unified Communications Suite gives CSPs the capability to do just that. In addition, its integration ...