Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Roger Strukhoff

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, IoT User Interface

Java IoT: 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

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Application transformation and DevOps practices are two sides of the same coin. Enterprises that want to capture value faster, need to deliver value faster – time value of money principle. To do that enterprises need to build cloud-native apps as microservices by empowering teams to build, ship, and run in production. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Neil Gehani, senior product manager at HPE, discussed what every business should plan for how to structure their teams to delive...
Rapid innovation, changing business landscapes, and new IT demands force businesses to make changes quickly. In the eyes of many, containers are at the brink of becoming a pervasive technology in enterprise IT to accelerate application delivery. In this presentation, attendees learned about the: The transformation of IT to a DevOps, microservices, and container-based architecture What are containers and how DevOps practices can operate in a container-based environment A demonstration of how ...
As we enter the final week before the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in Santa Clara, CA, it's time for me to reflect on six big topics that will be important during the show. Hybrid Cloud This general-purpose term seems to provide a comfort zone for many enterprise IT managers. It sounds reassuring to be able to work with one of the major public-cloud providers like AWS or Microsoft Azure while still maintaining an on-site presence.
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Phil Hombledal, Solution Architect at CollabNet, discussed how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that e...
Much of the value of DevOps comes from a (renewed) focus on measurement, sharing, and continuous feedback loops. In increasingly complex DevOps workflows and environments, and especially in larger, regulated, or more crystallized organizations, these core concepts become even more critical. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, showed how, by focusing on 'metrics that matter,' you can provide objective, transparent, and meaningful f...
Between 2005 and 2020, data volumes will grow by a factor of 300 – enough data to stack CDs from the earth to the moon 162 times. This has come to be known as the ‘big data’ phenomenon. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to handling, storing and analyzing data aren’t adequate at this scale: they’re too costly, slow and physically cumbersome to keep up. Fortunately, in response a new breed of technology has emerged that is cheaper, faster and more scalable. Yet, in meeting these new needs they...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 6-8, 2017 at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Logs are continuous digital records of events generated by all components of your software stack – and they’re everywhere – your networks, servers, applications, containers and cloud infrastructure just to name a few. The data logs provide are like an X-ray for your IT infrastructure. Without logs, this lack of visibility creates operational challenges for managing modern applications that drive today’s digital businesses.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
In IT, we sometimes coin terms for things before we know exactly what they are and how they’ll be used. The resulting terms may capture a common set of aspirations and goals – as “cloud” did broadly for on-demand, self-service, and flexible computing. But such a term can also lump together diverse and even competing practices, technologies, and priorities to the point where important distinctions are glossed over and lost.
Monitoring of Docker environments is challenging. Why? Because each container typically runs a single process, has its own environment, utilizes virtual networks, or has various methods of managing storage. Traditional monitoring solutions take metrics from each server and applications they run. These servers and applications running on them are typically very static, with very long uptimes. Docker deployments are different: a set of containers may run many applications, all sharing the resource...
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor – all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
Join Impiger for their featured webinar: ‘Cloud Computing: A Roadmap to Modern Software Delivery’ on November 10, 2016, at 12:00 pm CST. Very few companies have not experienced some impact to their IT delivery due to the evolution of cloud computing. This webinar is not about deciding whether you should entertain moving some or all of your IT to the cloud, but rather, a detailed look under the hood to help IT professionals understand how cloud adoption has evolved and what trends will impact th...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his session at @DevOpsSummit 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, showed how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that enables everyone fro...
In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Claude Remillard, Principal Program Manager in Developer Division at Microsoft, contrasted how his team used config as code and immutable patterns for continuous delivery of microservices and apps to the cloud. He showed how the immutable patterns helps developers do away with most of the complexity of config as code-enabling scenarios such as rollback, zero downtime upgrades with far greater simplicity. He also demoed building immutable pipelines in the cloud ...