Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Karthick Viswanathan, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Mehdi Daoudi

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Machine Learning

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
These days, APIs have become an integral part of the digital transformation journey for all enterprises. Every digital innovation story is connected to APIs . But have you ever pondered over to know what are the source of these APIs? Let me explain - APIs sources can be varied, internal or external, solving different purposes, but mostly categorized into the following two categories. Data lakes is a term used to represent disconnected but relevant data that are used by various business units wit...
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
One of the biggest challenges with adopting a DevOps mentality is: new applications are easily adapted to cloud-native, microservice-based, or containerized architectures - they can be built for them - but old applications need complex refactoring. On the other hand, these new technologies can require relearning or adapting new, oftentimes more complex, methodologies and tools to be ready for production. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, Solutions Marketi...
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Most of the time there is a lot of work involved to move to the cloud, and most of that isn't really related to AWS or Azure or Google Cloud. Before we talk about public cloud vendors and DevOps tools, there are usually several technical and non-technical challenges that are connected to it and that every company needs to solve to move to the cloud. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Stefano Bellasio, CEO and founder of Cloud Academy Inc., will discuss what the tools, disciplines, and cultural...
With the rise of DevOps, containers are at the brink of becoming a pervasive technology in Enterprise IT to accelerate application delivery for the business. When it comes to adopting containers in the enterprise, security is the highest adoption barrier. Is your organization ready to address the security risks with containers for your DevOps environment? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Van Tuin, Chief Technologist, NA West at Red Hat, will discuss: The top security r...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
The “Digital Era” is forcing us to engage with new methods to build, operate and maintain applications. This transformation also implies an evolution to more and more intelligent applications to better engage with the customers, while creating significant market differentiators. In both cases, the cloud has become a key enabler to embrace this digital revolution. So, moving to the cloud is no longer the question; the new questions are HOW and WHEN. To make this equation even more complex, most ...
The last two years has seen discussions about cloud computing evolve from the public / private / hybrid split to the reality that most enterprises will be creating a complex, multi-cloud strategy. Companies are wary of committing all of their resources to a single cloud, and instead are choosing to spread the risk – and the benefits – of cloud computing across multiple providers and internal infrastructures, as they follow their business needs. Will this approach be successful? How large is the ...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
Many organizations adopt DevOps to reduce cycle times and deliver software faster; some take on DevOps to drive higher quality and better end-user experience; others look to DevOps for a clearer line-of-sight to customers to drive better business impacts. In truth, these three foundations go together. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 21st Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, industry experts will discuss how leading organizations build application success from all...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
‘Trend’ is a pretty common business term, but its definition tends to vary by industry. In performance monitoring, trend, or trend shift, is a key metric that is used to indicate change. Change is inevitable. Today’s websites must frequently update and change to keep up with competition and attract new users, but such changes can have a negative impact on the user experience if not managed properly. The dynamic nature of the Internet makes it necessary to constantly monitor different metrics. O...
Today companies are looking to achieve cloud-first digital agility to reduce time-to-market, optimize utilization of resources, and rapidly deliver disruptive business solutions. However, leveraging the benefits of cloud deployments can be complicated for companies with extensive legacy computing environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, founder and CEO of Metavine, will outline the challenges enterprises face in migrating legacy solutions to the cloud. He will also prese...
Enterprises are moving to the cloud faster than most of us in security expected. CIOs are going from 0 to 100 in cloud adoption and leaving security teams in the dust. Once cloud is part of an enterprise stack, it’s unclear who has responsibility for the protection of applications, services, and data. When cloud breaches occur, whether active compromise or a publicly accessible database, the blame must fall on both service providers and users. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben Johnson, C...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
As DevOps methodologies expand their reach across the enterprise, organizations face the daunting challenge of adapting related cloud strategies to ensure optimal alignment, from managing complexity to ensuring proper governance. How can culture, automation, legacy apps and even budget be reexamined to enable this ongoing shift within the modern software factory?
The nature of the technology business is forward-thinking. It focuses on the future and what’s coming next. Innovations and creativity in our world of software development strive to improve the status quo and increase customer satisfaction through speed and increased connectivity. Yet, while it's exciting to see enterprises embrace new ways of thinking and advance their processes with cutting edge technology, it rarely happens rapidly or even simultaneously across all industries.
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...