|By Udayan Banerjee||
|May 4, 2010 02:43 AM EDT||
Can you think of an instance where a software project had to completed on schedule and the measure of ROI was of secondary importance? When a piece of software is part of a larger initiative the ROI becomes less important and the fallout of any delay may far outweigh the investment on the software.
Latest trend in agile and lean methodologies is to weigh every feature in the scale of “measurable business value” before acting on it. This approach, for some type of projects, may be redundant or even counter productive. In my opinion, software projects can be classified into 5 types - ROI, 7th-Habit, O-Ring, Hype-Cycle & Build-to-Flip.
Let's look at the characteristic of each type of projects and what makes each of them successful. I have also added how agile methodologies can aid the success. The danger of misclassification is to doom a project to be failure even before you have started.
There is a class of software projects where delivering business value is the key. The measure of value need to be quantifiable and can typically be:
- Cost saving
- Revenue generation
- Customer satisfaction
- Cycle-time reduction
If I spend “X” dollars I will get “Y” benefit = measurable value delivered to business.
Approval Process: Follow a variant of the following 4-step process:
- Identify and quantify business benefit
- Translate into software requirement
- Estimate – time and money required
- Obtain approval based on cost benefit analysis – the analysis may be absolute or relative to other projects
Pitfall: To get the project approved, the benefit may be (consciously or unconsciously) overstated. Alternately cost may be understated or impact of critical technical challenges not fully understood.
How agile can help:
Fail early – This is where use of agile methodology can be of great help. Used properly, it can identify, early in the project lifecycle, if the projected cost-benefit analysis is realistic. If it is not then the project can be allowed to fail early thereby saving considerable expense and heartache.
Incremental value – If the project is such that it will be feasible to make phased releases either to a small community of users or with subset of business critical features, then adopting agile methodology will allow value to be realized even before the completion of the project.
The seventh habit (see 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey) is “Sharpening the Saw” or about renewal.
These are already running applications and have to be re-written for one of the following reasons:
- Technology obsolescence – either hardware or software
- Problem of maintainability – lack of people or unwieldy code base
- Integration challenge
The applications would have been in use for a long period of time. Though the UI may be archaic, most users will be reluctant to switch to anything different. For such project, value will be intangible and it will be difficult to quantify. The renewed version of the product will normally will need to replicate the functionality of the existing application with some enhancements thrown in.
In the airline industry, majority of the ticketing runs on IBM mainframe and the application is developed using TPF which is a second generation language. IBM has declared that support for TPF is going to be withdrawn and it is to be replaced by z/TPF.
Approval Process: Ask the following questions:
- Can we afford to do it?
- Can we afford NOT to do it?
- Is there any alternate way of satisfying the business need?
- Is this application still relevant?
Pitfall: The project will be deemed successful only if users find the version at least as reliable and useful as the old system. The biggest risk is to miss out on the key feature, functionality or usability issue. This may happen when key users are unwilling to spend enough time or knowledge of specific feature is lost and is only available as code.
How agile can help: One of the challenges in using agile methodology for such project is the reluctance of users to contribute time and effort. If no major enhancements are planned then the developers are expected to study the existing system and derive the requirement. However, if the user interface is being revamped, then iterative refinement with constant user feedback can make or break the project.
On January 28, 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. Disintegration of the entire vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. It had lost its elasticity because of the unusually cold outside temperature.
Sometimes, software becomes an O-Ring in a large infrastructure project or new product release. In such cases, quality and on-time-completion becomes so much more important than any other parameter. 100% budget overrun may be an acceptable tradeoff to either prevent a bug or to avoid short delay.
When you are planning to open a new terminal building in an airport like Heathrow Terminal 5, software will be a small (cost wise) but important component in it. However, it will be at least as critical as any other component or equipment. The complete software has to be ready in time and has to function flawlessly. Even few days delay may lead to revenue loss in excess of the cost of the software. Also, any quality problem can damage the image of the organization.
Approval Process: Since such project will be a component of a larger project, there will be no separate approval process. However, following questions need to be asked:
- What to make – what to buy?
- How much to automate?
- Is the scope too ambitious?
- How much premium can be paid to reduce risk?
Pitfall: The biggest pitfall is to underestimate the complexity and technical challenge especially integration challenge. Many of these will surface only towards the end of the project when the deadline pressure will be at its peak.
How agile can help: Since, such project require a big bang release, what value agile can bring is not immediately obvious. However, for such project early mitigation of technical risk may be critical. Tackling them in an agile manner early in the project lifecycle can greatly increase the chances of success.
Hype-cycle is a term promoted by Gartner to provide pointers to how new technology adoption happens. Every technology goes through a “Peak of Inflated Expectations” where everybody jumps into the bandwagon. People want to cash in on the early mover advantage and time becomes of essence.
For such software projects, “being there” as quickly as possible is major driver. Though, cost and quality cannot be ignored, but they take a back seat.
With the release of iPhone from Apple, it became important for organization to release an iPhone application to the market. Scenario one is when you want to be the first and be perceived as the leader. Scenario two is when your competitor has already released such an application and you need to follow suit lest you be perceived as a laggard organization. It is the same story with Facebook applications.
The story of Cloud Computing or SOA is little different – there you are afraid that you may be missing out on something important. Therefore you want to try it out. In all these instances it is difficult to quantify measurable business value which is realistic. It is important to be there as quickly as possible.
Approval Process: Ideally such projects need to be driven by an evangelist. It will be a discretionary spending and money may either come from technology budget or marketing budget. The decision making is unlikely to be logical and based on figures – it will be a right-brain decision.
Pitfall: Normally, chances of failure for such projects will always be high. However, not responding to changing scenario fast enough can lower the chance of success to almost zero.
How agile can help: Since the area is new, the requirement needs to emerge and change during the course of the project. For such projects, it is difficult to envisage any methodology other than Agile.
The term build-to-flip was coined by Jim Collins, the co-author of Build to Last. If you have an innovative idea, you start a company, create a prototype, get VC funding and build your idea to a level where you have sufficient user base to sell the whole venture. Significant percentages of such ventures are purely software projects. Alternately, software would be a major component in the development effort.
Build-to-flip projects have some similarity with hype-cycle project but have its own unique characteristics. The innovator will start with an idea but in most cases it will not be fully formed. Whole plan needs to be flexible and the product needs to morph based on the feedback, likes and dislikes of the early adopters. The innovator needs to be sensitive to unintended usage of the idea. In addition, the early adopters will also become the beta testers. Quality may not be the most critical factor. Twitter, for example, used to crash quiet frequently in the initial days. That did not prevent it from being one of the biggest successes of recent times. Rolling the right features out as soon as possible may be the key to success.
Approval Process: You need an idea which can grow big. You need to sell the concept to a funding agency, probably a VC. If you succeed then you are on.
Pitfall: Not everybody is Steve Jobs – you may not be able to create an iPod or an iPhone in the first attempt. You will need to iterate and listen to early adopters. Not doing so quickly enough is a sure road to failure.
How agile can help: Not only will agile development is mandatory, agile deployment is also critical. Option of continuous deployment is also worth examining – here is a nice example.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
Apr. 29, 2016 05:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,394
With DevOps becoming more well-known and established practice in nearly every industry that delivers software, it is important to continually reassess its efficacy. This week’s top 10 includes a discussion on how the quick uptake of DevOps adoption in the enterprise has posed some serious challenges. Additionally, organizations who have taken the DevOps plunge must find ways to find, hire and keep their DevOps talent in order to keep the machine running smoothly.
Apr. 29, 2016 04:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,315
Call it DevOps or not, if you are concerned about releasing more code faster and at a higher quality, the resulting software delivery chain and process will look and smell like DevOps. But for existing development teams, no matter what the velocity objective is, getting from here to there is not something that can be done without a plan. Moving your release cadence from months to weeks is not just about learning Agile practices and getting some automation tools. It involves people, tooling and ...
Apr. 29, 2016 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,452
Between the mockups and specs produced by analysts, and resulting applications built by developers, there exists a gulf where projects fail, costs spiral, and applications disappoint. Methodologies like Agile attempt to address this with intensified communication, with partial success but many limitations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Charles Kendrick, CTO & Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, will present a revolutionary model enabled by new technologies. Learn how business and devel...
Apr. 29, 2016 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,641
The notion of customer journeys, of course, are central to the digital marketer’s playbook. Clearly, enterprises should focus their digital efforts on such journeys, as they represent customer interactions over time. But making customer journeys the centerpiece of the enterprise architecture, however, leaves more questions than answers. The challenge arises when EAs consider the context of the customer journey in the overall architecture as well as the architectural elements that make up each...
Apr. 29, 2016 02:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,876
APIs have taken the world by storm in recent years. The use of APIs has gone beyond just traditional "software" companies, to companies and organizations across industries using APIs to share information and power their applications. For some organizations, APIs are the biggest revenue drivers. For example, Salesforce generates nearly 50% of annual revenue through APIs. In other cases, APIs can increase a business's footprint and initiate collaboration. Netflix, for example, reported over 5 bi...
Apr. 28, 2016 09:45 PM EDT Reads: 2,511
As the software delivery industry continues to evolve and mature, the challenge of managing the growing list of the tools and processes becomes more daunting every day. Today, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platforms are proving most valuable by providing the governance, management and coordination for every stage of development, deployment and release. Recently, I spoke with Madison Moore at SD Times about the changing market and where ALM is headed.
Apr. 28, 2016 09:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,362
If there is anything we have learned by now, is that every business paves their own unique path for releasing software- every pipeline, implementation and practices are a bit different, and DevOps comes in all shapes and sizes. Software delivery practices are often comprised of set of several complementing (or even competing) methodologies – such as leveraging Agile, DevOps and even a mix of ITIL, to create the combination that’s most suitable for your organization and that maximize your busines...
Apr. 28, 2016 08:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,724
These days I mostly make my living as a consultant. Consultants in general are probably not the best loved group in the world. It is common to think of consultants wafting-in to your organization, telling you things that you already know and advising you to “change your culture”, whatever that means. Subsequently they depart, no-doubt with a fat fee, and leave you as you were before with the same problems and no progress made.
Apr. 28, 2016 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,425
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
Apr. 28, 2016 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,961
In the rush to compete in the digital age, a successful digital transformation is essential, but many organizations are setting themselves up for failure. There’s a common misconception that the process is just about technology, but it’s not. It’s about your business. It shouldn’t be treated as an isolated IT project; it should be driven by business needs with the committed involvement of a range of stakeholders.
Apr. 28, 2016 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,766
New Relic, Inc. has announced a set of new features across the New Relic Software Analytics Cloud that offer IT operations teams increased visibility, and the ability to diagnose and resolve performance problems quickly. The new features further IT operations teams’ ability to leverage data and analytics, as well as drive collaboration and a common, shared understanding between teams. Software teams are under pressure to resolve performance issues quickly and improve availability, as the comple...
Apr. 28, 2016 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,370
The goal of any tech business worth its salt is to provide the best product or service to its clients in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. This is just as true in the development of software products as it is in other product design services. Microservices, an app architecture style that leans mostly on independent, self-contained programs, are quickly becoming the new norm, so to speak. With this change comes a declining reliance on older SOAs like COBRA, a push toward more s...
Apr. 28, 2016 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,217
Join IBM June 8 at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn how to innovate like a startup and scale for the enterprise. You need to deliver quality applications faster and cheaper, attract and retain customers with an engaging experience across devices, and seamlessly integrate your enterprise systems. And you can't take 12 months to do it.
Apr. 28, 2016 04:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,732
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
Apr. 28, 2016 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,620
The proper isolation of resources is essential for multi-tenant environments. The traditional approach to isolate resources is, however, rather heavyweight. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Igor Drobiazko, co-founder of elastic.io, will draw upon their own experience with operating a Docker container-based infrastructure on a large scale and present a lightweight solution for resource isolation using microservices. He will also discuss the implementation of microservices in data and applicat...
Apr. 28, 2016 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,647
Digital means customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions to be sure, but let’s not forget our employees. After all, when we say customer, we mean customer writ large, including partners, supply chain participants, and yes, those salaried denizens whose daily labor forms the cornerstone of the enterprise. While your customers bask in the warm rays of your digital efforts, are your employees toiling away in the dark recesses of your enterprise, pecking data into...
Apr. 28, 2016 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 810
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
Apr. 28, 2016 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,455
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Apr. 28, 2016 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,177
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
Apr. 28, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,395