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Why use Agile?

So Why Use Agile?

Just read an interesting article “Biggest UK Government Project Failures” by Matthew Hayhow. Today, the mainstream software industry has a poor track record; when it comes to delivering working software on time and within budget. It is widely reported that 80% of all software projects fail. What a disaster!

Source: http://www.softwareadvisoryservice.com/blog/biggest-uk-government-project-failures/

The Top 5 Reasons Projects Fail

When asked why their projects failed, managers and employees cited a wide range of issues. But these 5 reasons surfaced over and over again, as the main reasons why their projects failed:

  • Lack of end-user (customer) involvement
  • Poor requirements
  • Unrealistic schedules
  • Lack of change management
  • Lack of testing
  • Inflexible and bloated processes

Here’s how Agile addresses these problems head on…So clearly, with so many project failing, there’s Ota be a better way. And while Agile may not have all the answers for all the problems, here’s how Agile directly addresses these key issues:

The Customer Is King…

To address the lack of end-user or customer involvement, Agile made the customer a member of the Agile Product Team. As a member of the team, the customer works with the development team to ensure that their needs are met. The customer contributes to the requirements, approves the final result, and, is has the last word when making tradeoffs between which features are added, changed or removed from a release.

Requirements Are Written As Acceptance Tests Before Any Code Is Written...

To address the issue of poor requirements, Agile insists that you write acceptance tests before you write code. As requirements are gathered, they are defined as features containing one or more use cases with concrete acceptance criteria. The acceptance criteria is used to write an acceptance test before any code is written. That means that someone actually has to think about what they want before they ask someone to deliver it! This approach radically changes the requirements gathering process and dramatically improves the quality of estimating and scheduling.

Schedules Aren’t Assigned, They’re Negotiated…

To address the issue of unrealistic schedules, Agile makes estimating and scheduling a collaborative process between the Product Team and the Development Team. At the start of a release, the Product Team estimates the level of effort for a set of features. Then they ask the Development Team to review, revise and provide feedback on the estimates. The two teams work the estimates collaboratively until a reasonable schedule is achieved. Then everyone commits to the schedule and the work begins.

Nothing Is Carved In Stone, Except For The Delivery Date…

To address the issue of lack of change management, Agile insists that everyone embrace change, that everyone be realistic about change, and that anything can change except for the delivery date! In other words, as the product moves toward release, the customer (sitting on the Product Team) can add, change or remove a feature based on its priority and value. However, they have to be realistic. If they add a feature, they’ll likely have to take another one out, in order to meet the delivery date. And, the delivery date is always met.

Tests Are Written Before Code Is Written And Testing Is Automated…

To address the issue of lack of testing, Agile demands that tests be written first and that tests be run continuously throughout the build process rather than waiting until the 11th hour to punt some bad code over the wall; to a helpless test team. Each developer has to write their test first, then write the code to make it pass the test. The test is automatically run any time the code is changed. This approach makes testing the responsibility of everyone on the development and ensures the integrity of the build from the start of the project.

Project management is not a separate activity…

To address the issue of inflexible and bloated processes, Agile integrates project management into the process. The project management function is shared across the development team. For example, each 7 person development team (scrum) commits to a release schedule that they personally negotiate. In addition, the code base automatically generates project tracking information. For example, burndown, velocity and test pass-fail charts are all automatically generated by comparing outstanding tests with test passed and tests failed.

Agile is a profound step in the right direction…

As we said earlier, Agile may not address every software development problem, but it is a very profound step in the right direction. Based on the Agile Manifesto, it makes a serious attempt at addressing many of the key problems with current software development processes by empowering and respecting the people who are part of the process and by taking a pragmatic and realistic approach to the software development business.

To find out how you can become Agile, take a look at our Agile services…

3 key qualities that are a must if you want to succeed with project management

Project management is no easy task. It could cause you to scratch your hair, want to rip out your eyeballs and throw tables out of anger. Due to the nature of project management, there are 3 key qualities you need to succeed. Do you tick all 3 boxes?

3 key qualities:

Communication:

Communication is the number 1 quality every project manager needs, for definite. There is no way around it. Without this vital quality, prepare for a shock. If you don’t communicate effectively to your team, then chances are, your team won’t have a solid idea of what you are trying to achieve with a certain task. This could lead to many issues including a failed project, relationships turned sour, and more baggage.

Communicating with all stakeholders is also very important and should not be left until the last minute. Stakeholders play a massive role in the success of an organization so involving them each step of the way can benefit projects in many ways.

Humility:

This word isn’t thrown around a lot in the project management industry but in my honest opinion, it is one that should get a lot more attention. Going into a project knowing there’s a possibility that the project is going to fail and not go the way its planned is critical. This is because it allows you to learn from your mistakes and find alternative routes and methods to achieve your goals

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Learning humility not only enables you to improve your morale within your team but also allows you to adapt to new changes within the business a lot faster, which is much more important now than ever due to the new changes in Article 50

Being respectful of the needs of the business stakeholders is another way to show humility as these stakeholders may not understand the limitations that come with using the system. This means they won’t know exactly what’s possible and what isn’t as well as the level of risk associated with performing certain tasks for the project.

Respect:

Linking back to the previous point, having respect for your team can help your project in terms of getting it done at a higher quality and a faster efficiency.  One good mindset to have always is that your team works WITH you and not FOR you. Many people use the wrong mindset when creating and planning projects and this leads to projects failing before it already begins. Always maintain a friendly tone with your team and let them know that you’re there to help. This helps boost morale and help productivity.

Having these 3 key qualities is a must if you want to succeed in the world of project management. If you don’t have any of the above or just a few, focus on trying to learn the other qualities and try implementing them with your projects. You’ll notice a huge difference in terms of work ethic, quality, and morale.

Do you tick all 3 boxes?

Send us a comment below with your experience on using these 3 qualities to enhance your projects.

User Stories – How to write good stories?

User Stories

Recently came across a 20 page long requirements document and didn’t know where to start and what to remember, specially for somebody like me who has a memory of a goldfish. I stopped using those time consuming, long and boring requirements document way back in 2007 and started use cases and then moved to user stories. They are easy to write and understand and best thing about them is “collaboration“. I personally love those user story writing workshops with loads of index cards, post-its, marker and DONUTS. So how do you write user stories?

User Stories:

According to Mike Cohn User stories are short, simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the person who desires the new capability, usually a user or customer of the system. They typically follow a simple template:

As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>.

User stories are often written on index cards or sticky notes, stored in a shoe box, and arranged on walls or tables to facilitate planning and discussion. As such, they strongly shift the focus from writing about features to discussing them. In fact, these discussions are more important than whatever text is written.

Title: One line describing the story

Narrative:
As a [role]
I want [feature]
So that [benefit]
Acceptance Criteria: (presented as Scenarios)
Scenario 1: Title
Given [context]
And [some more context]…
When [event]
Then [outcome]
And [another outcome]…
Scenario 2: …

Here is an example from my recent project at Toyota motors.

Sales Performance ReportUser stories

Narrative:
As a [Sales Analyst]
I want [to see parts sales figures for the current month(mtd)]
So that [I can track sales progress against monthly target]

Acceptance Criteria: (presented as Scenarios)

Scenario 1: BI User login
Given [I am logging in as a BI user]
And [some more context]…
When  [the log in successful]
Then  [I will be taken to sales performance report]
And [I will be able to select month and date or defaults to current month and date]

Hope this helps! Good luck with user story writing and don’t forget to buy donuts (skinny ones for me please!).

Small Steps

Do you think you could cycle from Paris to Geneva? 503.9 km, mainly uphill, over mountains and hills, with no material reward? What about 643.7 km from Niagara to New York?

niagara to nyc logo

The former is exactly the journey a group of cyclists undertook to raise money for Small Steps charity last August, and latter is the journey they will be undertaking on the first of August this year. The causes that they’re helping to support this year include the SCSNA (Solihull Special Needs Children’s Association), which provide’s support to the children, often for free, by teaching basic skills, which we might take for granted. They also take the children swimming once a week in an old minibus on its last legs! Without such a playgroup, parents and carers would not have any rest from the hard work they have to put in just to look after these children with special needs. Small-Steps have supported the local charity since 2011.

This year they also begin their support of the Chandratilak Vidyamandir Society, which runs two Primary schools in the tribal area near Bilaspur in Chattisgarh, India. The society runs primary schooling in the tribal area near Bilaspur in Chattisgarh, India. In this school, 186 village children are getting free education until year 4. The society, which has been running on voluntary contributions alone with little support available from other sources, is in danger of closing down. Small-Steps Charity is contributing towards provision of books, school bags, shoes, raincoats, warm clothing to both students and parents, and a healthy and balanced diet. The vision is for Small Steps to establish a long term relationship with the school and help support them as they continue with the fantastic work that they do.

krishna small steps

Capri Consulting has worked closely with the charity since the beginning of its support of the Society, and we’re proud to announce that we are the official sponsors of the 2015 cycling team for their journey from Niagara to New York, after our Company Director, Krishna Thakur, was inspired by the fantastic work they do whilst on a recent business trip to India.

The Charity also holds other regular sporting fundraisers like badminton tournaments and charity walks, find out more and see how you can help here.

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Welcome to the culture of change

lipstick-on-a-pig

If you’re a manager, whether at middle or corporate level, you more than likely have the power to fire, hire, promote or demote people with very little effort indeed.  You may have the power to move your companies office space to the other side of the city, to change the logo, to make changes to your companies product. Some of these might appear to be stark changes on the surface, but do they really change the company? You can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig. You can make as many changes to the company as you want, but it won’t really actually change. After all, your company isn’t your product or your office space or your logo; its your employees. It’s the people. And they’re who you need to change.

No, I don’t mean fire everyone and hire a plethora of new people, I mean change the business culture your current employees have entrenched into them, and everything else will change too.

Professor John Kotter outlines how to go about this in his 1995 book ‘Leading change’. He outlines 8 steps for leading change in your organisation, and they are as follows:

 

STEP ONE: CREATE URGENCY

For change to happen, it helps if the whole company really wants it. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving.

This isn’t simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. Open an honest and convincing dialogue about what’s happening in the marketplace and with your competition. If many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself.

What you can do:

  • Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.
  • Examine opportunities that should be, or could be, exploited.
  • Start honest discussions, and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking.
  • Request support from customers, outside stakeholders and industry people to strengthen your argument.

STEP TWO: FORM A POWERFUL COALITION


Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization. Managing change isn’t enough – you have to lead it.

You can find effective change leaders throughout your organization – they don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. To lead change, you need to bring together a coalition, or team, of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, expertise, and political importance.

Once formed, your “change coalition” needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.

What you can do:

  • Identify the true leaders in your organization, as well as your key stakeholders.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people.
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.
  • Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

 

STEP THREE: CREATE A VISION FOR CHANGE


When you first start thinking about change, there will probably be many great ideas and solutions floating around. Link these concepts to an overall vision that people can grasp easily and remember.

A clear vision can help everyone understand why you’re asking them to do something. When people see for themselves what you’re trying to achieve, then the directives they’re given tend to make more sense.

What you can do:

  • Determine the values that are central to the change.
  • Develop a short summary (one or two sentences) that captures what you “see” as the future of your organization.
  • Create a strategy to execute that vision.
  • Ensure that your change coalition can describe the vision in five minutes or less.
  • Practice your “vision speech” often.

 

STEP FOUR: COMMUNICATE THE VISION


What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the company, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.

Don’t just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone’s minds, they’ll remember it and respond to it.

It’s also important to “walk the talk.” What you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say. Demonstrate the kind of behavior that you want from others.

What you can do:

  • Talk often about your change vision.
  • Address peoples’ concerns and anxieties, openly and honestly.
  • Apply your vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews. Tie everything back to the vision.
  • Lead by example.

 

STEP FIVE: REMOVE OBSTACLES


If you follow these steps and reach this point in the change process, you’ve been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your staff wants to get busy and achieve the benefits that you’ve been promoting.

But is anyone resisting the change? And are there processes or structures that are getting in its way?

Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

What you can do:

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
  • Look at your organizational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
  • Recognize and reward people for making change happen.
  • Identify people who are resisting the change, and help them see what’s needed.
  • Take action to quickly remove barriers (human or otherwise).

 

STEP SIX: CREATE SHORT TERM WINS


Nothing motivates more than success. Give your company a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you’ll want to have some “quick wins ” that your staff can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.

Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.

What you can do:

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change.
  • Don’t choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
  • Thoroughly analyze the potential pros and cons of your targets. If you don’t succeed with an early goal, it can hurt your entire change initiative.
  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets.

 

STEP SEVEN: BUILD ON THE CHANGE


Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change.

Launching one new product using a new system is great. But if you can launch 10 products, that means the new system is working. To reach that 10th success, you need to keep looking for improvements.

Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve.

What you can do:

  • After every win, analyze what went right, and what needs improving.
  • Set goals to continue building on the momentum you’ve achieved.
  • Learn about kaizen, the idea of continuous improvement.
  • Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new change agents and leaders for your change coalition

 

STEP EIGHT: ANCHOR THE CHANGES IN CORPORATE CULTURE


Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organization. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work.

Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization. This will help give that change a solid place in your organization’s culture.

It’s also important that your company’s leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.

What you can do:

  • Talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.
  • Include the change ideals and values when hiring and training new staff.
  • Publicly recognize key members of your original change coalition, and make sure the rest of the staff – new and old – remembers their contributions.
  • Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.

Get in touch:
Our website
E-mail: info@capriconsulting.co.uk
Telephone: 0333-321-8999

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