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HP Software's community for IT leaders // November 2012

4 secrets to innovative Agile

The most successful apps organizations aren’t just adopting Agile. They’re also adapting it to their needs, sometimes in surprising ways.
Anybody who has ever approached Agile hoping for a step-by-step guide to better, faster software development has walked away disappointed. Instead, they’ve found that Agile is a set of guiding principles, open to interpretation and adaptation. And like any tool in the developers’ toolkit, Agile has to be used well to get effective results.
So what sets apart the teams that are successful from the ones that are not? How are apps teams being innovative in applying the principles of Agile to their unique needs? A recent Forrester survey analyzed two groups of Agile users—those who are highly successful, and those still struggling to make iterative development pay off. The report turned up some interesting, even surprising, results that reinforce the idea that Agile is what you make of it. Perhaps most interesting are not what the successful teams did but what they didn’t do. Here are four tips—two do’s and two don’ts—for making Agile work.

1. DO involve business sponsors more often.

Whether working on traditional or Agile development projects, the successful groups involved business sponsors 46 percent more often than the control group. True to Agile form, by collaborating with business sponsors, they likely did a better job of ensuring that project requirements were on target, and got incremental feedback on work as they went. That may have resulted in fewer changes later.

2. DO address the collaboration challenges of distributed teams.

It’s increasingly rare in the enterprise that all Agile team members and stakeholders are in the same time zone, much less the same room. The successful group was 24 percent more likely to rely on tools for distributed teams to collaborate, keep in touch, and share artifacts. Give some thought to how you’ll move smoothly at the speed Agile requires.

3. DON’T let project artifacts age.

Perhaps most interesting is what the successful groups did less often than the control group—most notably, in maximizing the flow of the projects. The successful groups let requirements sit and await coding 81 percent less often than the control group. Coded modules awaited testing 70 percent less often. In general, they limited the amount of work in progress to minimize the impact of any sudden business changes that might come up.

4. DON’T treat Ops as a foreign country.

To maximize velocity, successful Agile teams appear to let the Ops team take control of final deployment. The groups identified as successful were the ones that manually moved system components to production 27 percent less often than the control group. They were more likely to step back from final deployment, allowing the Ops team to move system components 18 percent more often. That suggests the successful teams focused more on their core tasks and trusted their partnership with the Ops team.

Apply Agile in context

Agile was always intended to be used in context, not according to a set of clearly defined steps. That means the details will be different for different organizations, and the trick is figuring out the details that matter in your world. These findings suggest that’s what successful organizations have done: apply Agile according to the unique needs of the business, and no faster than the organization can handle.

Read the full Forrester white paper, “Agile Software Development and the Factors that Drive Success,” and investigate HP Software’s solutions for Agile delivery.


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