Lean principles and Agile methodologies applied to software development are not just fluffy and fashion: they are a set of operational and organizational tools for the software industry. As every tool you can make good or bad use of it, for sure it is worth learning something on it to avoid myths and make informed decisions.
In the last month we have been involved in two events about Agile software development:
- CTI Liguria (Club delle Tecnologie dell’Informazione) held a workshop on Agile contracts in Genova, on November the 17th. I had the pleasure of being involved as a speker, among others experienced professionals who have practical experience in the software development industry.
- Felice De Robertis, who already told us his story in Agile coaching in TomTom in Berlin, have been invited speaker at the IAD (Italian Agile Days) in Brescia, on November the 6th and 7th, to tell his experience on highly scaled Agile implementations.
CTI Liguria on Agile Contracts
Target of the meeting was to dive deep in the Agile Methodology for the sofware development, not only from technical point of veiw but also for the interaction with the customers. Actually Customer collaboration is a key element of the Agile Manifesto, but it is often the hardest to be implemented.
Bringing a SW development organization from traditional waterfall process to Agile adoption, and further toward full Agile transformation can be a difficult task, but the ultimate challange is extending the transformation beyond the organization boundaries, involving the customers in the process.
The workshop have been introduced by Massimiliano Margarone, CEO of Smartland, a SME in Genova where Agile is applied in educational software development.
Andrea Rodriguez provided a more technical overview of “scrum” framework and organizational implications for a company willing to adopt “scrum” or daring to undergo a full Agile transformation.
Elena Bassoli, Attorney and Professor of computer science law at the University of Genoa, introduced the Agile Contranct, as a new form of agreement between the development company and the customer, based on trust and incremental delivery. The fundamental concept is that a SW project is often hard to be estimated, specially in early phases when the knowledge of the specific problem is minimal. The result is that in “a corpo” contract the developer introduces margins to take into account risks, and the customer introduces penalties to protect herself. The usual alternate option is the time-and-material contract which in turn protects the developer and lives all the risk to the customer.
The agile contract suggests a totally different approach, based on development iterations where the developer has to deliver value at each step, and the customer can accept (and pay!) or reject the drop. The developer is motivated to small iterations to avoid the risk of work without being paid, and the customer is motivated to pay in time for good deliveries to avoid being left with a product not responding to all requirements.
Finally Andrea Bella, Luca Giovanacci and myself briefly presented our experiences in Agile transformation in the companies we work in. It has been a good opportunity to share real life experiences, covering various steps of the process. Luca spoke about the introdcution of Scrum in few teams in an organization starintg to adopt Agile, Andrea described the world-wide iterative SW build process implemented in his company and I spoke about the cultural transformation implied in Lean introduction, which requires time and efforts to evolve beyond just running team ceremonies.
Extremely Scaled Agile: Felice de Robertis @ IAD2015
In a place like Berlin, it´s very easy for an Agile Coach to get connected with other Agile Coaches from other companies in such events like meetup, scrumtisch and so on. And then, it´s really easy to share experiences, visit other realities, and look at how they implemented and scaled Agile.
That´s why I decided to submit my speech at the Italian Agile Day 2015 in Brescia: “Product Owner in un mondo Extremely Scaled Agile” (Product Owner in an Extremely Scaled Agile world), with the idea of sharing my personal experience and also what I got looking at other companies, looking at the job as a Product Owner when scaling Agile, and when scaling it using different behaviors and frameworks.
The first behavior (and not framework) of Scaling Agile I considered is what I call a “Managed Scaled Agile”, where the management decides for any good reason that it´s necessary to become “Agile”, but without really understanding the importance of the mindset changing and of all the Agile Values and Principles, and “managing” the transformation mainly as a normal organizational change.
The second way of Scaling Agile I experienced is the adoption of the SAFe framework (or process?), where Scaled Agile is “safely” implemented, without really changing the Management of the organization. Maybe SAFe could be a good starting point for a big project / company, where failure is not allowed, but then it would be better to start thinking of improving out of SAFe, as in a few years some problems could come out. SAFe is the methodology we are now adopting in TomTom in the NavKit product, but today there´s a discussion ongoing on how to improve and how maybe to exit from SAFe.
The third option I discussed about is the adoption of the LeSS framework, for companies with more courage and less afraid to really change to Agile methodologies; actually LeSS says that Project Management is no more necessary, and its responsibilities will go to the Product Owner/s together with the Teams, so resulting in a very flat organization with just the Head of Product Group on the top, and just below the Teams and the Team of Product Owners. A sort of LeSS is successfully implemented in Zalando in Berlin
The last option I included is the “Best Fit Scaling Agile”, that means: finding out and creating your own best fit way of Scaling Agile. A famous example (and sort of driver in agility) is Spotify, but I found an even more interesting company in Berlin “MovingImage”, about 400mt far from my working site in TomTom, that created the MISS framework (Moving Image Scaled Scrum), a very very simple way of Scaling Scrum, where each department in the company (even the Chief Board and the HR) is working as a Scrum Team. The problem of this fourth option, is that you need to have a very enthusiastic Agile mindset in the Management of the company, and you need to be helped by very experienced Agile Coaches to find out which is your best fit framework, otherwise you will risk to fail into the option 1. But when you have success in this way, you´ll really be able to become Agile.
Conclusion, after this overview, is that the PO job and responsibilities can hugely vary depending on the Scaled Agile framework adopted in a Company, from a very high level of ownership for example in LeSS, to a very low (and frustrating) sense of ownership if you are a PO in a company scaling with SAFe
Felice De Robertis
Here are the slides I presented at the IAD2015:
Here the video about MISS:
And finally, the link to the IAD2015 event:
About myself: I´ve been working for 20 years in Marconi and then Ericsson in Genoa (Italy) in different roles. In 2009 I was involved as Product Owner in a Pilot Project for introducing Agile (Scrum) methodologies in the company. After two more years as a Product Owner, I was asked to coach new scrum teams (brand new teams, or teams needing some help), most of them developing HW, also introducing Kanban in the company. In addition, I was a member of the Internal Transition Team, aiming to find out the best way to setup the Agile Organization and mindset for a very big project (25 Teams in Italy and 25 Teams in China, developing HW and embedded SW). In 2014 I left Ericsson and Italy, and started working as a Scrum Master and as an Agile coach for Berlin site in TomTom.