|By Udayan Banerjee||
|April 3, 2012 07:00 AM EDT||
You are a software service provider. You develop software for you clients. Majority of your clients are from a different city or even a different country. You are in a discussion with your client where you are exploring the option of adopting Agile Development Methodology for your next project.
Does the above paragraph describe you? Are you concerned about how the whole thing will work out?
If the above paragraph describes you, then I can assure you that you are not in minority. Many of us have been in a similar situation.
The biggest challenge of adopting agile for an outsourced project is that there aren’t any clearly defined best practices available which you can adopt. The whole field is still evolving and the best practices are yet to emerge.
So, what should you do to increase the chance of success?
Obviously, you will have to find the answer yourself. To find the right answer, you need to ask the right question!
Let me set you thinking on what questions you need to ask. Here are 5 of them:
1. Is your understanding of Agile same as your clients understanding of Agile?
Please remember, there is no common accepted definition for agile. Yes, there is the Agile Manifesto but that can hardly be called a definition. It is more of a vision of how to develop software which delivers business values. The manifesto indicates that the best way to develop software is to create a “co-located” “cross-functional” team of “competent” individuals and allow them to “self-organize” and deliver “working” software “regularly” which delivers “business-value”.
In today’s complex globalized world it may be impossible to keep the software team small and collocated. The prescribed method of software development becomes infeasible when the size of the problem grows beyond a point. Yes, one small team can be very productive but there are many real life problems where it becomes impossible for a single team to handle. Similarly, when experts across multiple locations need to collaborate, co-location is not really an option. As a result, where outsourcing is involved, the agile process will deviate from what is envisaged in the manifesto.
There isn’t any common understanding of what the deviation should be. So you need to have your own interpretation of the “agile methodology” that you want to follow. What you need to keep in mind is that your interpretation may be different from what the client expects. So, the most important task should be to identify how much is this difference in interpretation?
If the difference is small then you would be lucky because you would have crossed the biggest hurdle. However, if the difference is significant then you need to decide if you want to follow your client in agile adoption or do you want to act as the thought leader and convince the client about your interpretation?
If you have a mismatch of the interpretation it will definitely result in mismatch of expectation and erosion of trust.
2. On what basis are you going to get paid?
Though one of the 4 principles of agile manifesto is “Customer Collaboration” over “Contract Negotiation”, in an outsourcing situation it is impossible to avoid contract negotiation. The key element in your contract is going to be a mechanism or a formula to derive how much you are going to get paid for the service that you are rendering.
If client is willing to pay based on the hours logged by the team members and ready to take the responsibility of the output of the team then you don’t have to worry.
The current trend is to link the payment to output. There is no standard method of achieving this and you need to work it out with each client separately. There are two alternate mechanisms to achieve this.
In the first one you agree on a scope of work and a price for the same. The scope can be defined for an “iteration” or for a “release”. You also agree on a mechanism for arriving at the deviation from the agreed scope and method of calculating how much you will be compensated for the extra work. Alternately, you can come up with a formula to calculate the size of the work delivered and a method of calculating the price for that. However, whatever may the mechanism be, it should appear to be fair for both parties.
You need to work for a win-win without which you will not be able to build the trust required for the success of the agile project.
3. How will the iterations be accepted? How will the project close?
In most cases, your payment will be linked to a milestone. It may be on a completion of “iteration” or the delivery and acceptance of release. Will the client pay you as soon as you make the delivery or will the pay only after they have verified the delivery and found it acceptable. What happens if there are bugs? Would you have to fix them before you are paid? Will that be a separate delivery or will they be fixed in the next iteration. What happens if there is a delay in reviewing the delivery?
Best way to overcome this problem is to deliver good quality software and adjust your iteration cycle-time to match the client’s ability to review it, give feedback and finally accept the delivery. Also, it is a good idea to have a clear understanding on how the project is going to be brought to a closure. In the over eagerness to start the work, the method of acceptance may not be fully resolved.
It would a big mistake not to address the issue of “method of acceptance” before starting the engagement.
4. Will your communication infrastructure measure up to client expectations?
Insisting on co-location while outsourcing a project may not make sense. In most cases it will defeat the purpose of outsourcing. Therefore once you give up on one of the original agile premise of cross-functional collocated team you will face another set of challenges. Irrespective of what agile may say, tools processes and technology will come to your aid to ease the burden of multiple locations.
You need to put in place suitable infrastructure which will support direct interaction between all members of your team and the product owner and other relevant people in the client organization without any delay. You also need to have in place suitable tools and process in place for sharing information like story, backlog, open issues, bugs etc. You also need to figure out if all your team members are comfortable and confident about discussing road blocks with the client representative.
For a distributed team it is difficult to achieve continuous interaction without the support suitable technology and infrastructure support.
5. How transparent do you have to be about your team composition and organization?
Is self-organizing team a necessary precondition for executing an agile project? The view among the experts range from (A) “yes, it is a must” to (B) “it is a good thing to have but not mandatory”.
If your clients fall into the second category and he leaves the problem of team organization to you then you don’t have to worry too much about team self-organization. If you are able to create a self-organizing team you will be better off and be more productive. Without that also you will still survive.
However, if the client insists that the team has to organize itself, the scrum master will only play the role of facilitator and you are not going to have a project manager then you need to clearly understand the implication. If your whole organization is only using agile methodology then you may not have a problem. But if like most of software service provider you use a mix of many different development life-cycles – this distinction becomes very important.
To support self-organization you will need mature team members and experienced scrum master.
There is enough evidence that agile works better than traditional methods … even in outsourcing situation.
Therefore, agile is going to get adopted – question is “are you prepared”?
[A version of this article is also published in Global Delivery Report]
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Nov. 26, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 1,081
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 ...
Nov. 26, 2014 11:30 PM EST Reads: 974
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...
Nov. 26, 2014 09:00 PM EST Reads: 1,028
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
Nov. 26, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 1,014
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
Nov. 26, 2014 06:00 PM EST Reads: 1,024
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nov. 26, 2014 05:45 PM EST Reads: 961
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!
Nov. 26, 2014 04:00 PM EST Reads: 1,067
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Nov. 26, 2014 03:45 PM EST Reads: 1,023
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Nov. 26, 2014 02:00 PM EST Reads: 1,493
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Nov. 25, 2014 09:30 PM EST Reads: 1,244
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Nov. 25, 2014 09:30 PM EST Reads: 1,299
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Nov. 25, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 1,334
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
Nov. 25, 2014 04:30 PM EST Reads: 1,342
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Nov. 24, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 1,644
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
Nov. 24, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,527
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Nov. 24, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,665
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
Nov. 24, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,687
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
Nov. 23, 2014 07:30 PM EST Reads: 1,848
"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.
Nov. 23, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,796
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
Nov. 23, 2014 07:45 AM EST Reads: 1,834