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I’m facing a big challenge. Can you help me?

I'm facing a big problem. Can you help me?

I'm facing a big problem. Can you help me? *

There are questions and challenges that keep coming up. No matter if you work on the business side or the technical side of your organization, you have certainly faced or might be dealing with some of these challenges and you aren’t quite sure what to do. If the statements below sound familiar to you, you may want to read on.

  • My project team constantly misses deadlines.
  • The project team keeps exceeding its budget.
  • My project team doesn’t deliver on the requirements.
  • The end users don’t know what they want.
  • The requirements keep changing and that constantly impact our project plan.
  • The project team develops software components that don’t seem to have any business value and they seem to produce more paper tha software.   
  • My team develops software that doesn’t satisfy my users.
  • The project team usually finds problems very late in the development process.
  • The project team does not have the right skills.
  • The project team is tired, nobody is having fun and we are losing good people.
  • I need to wait a long time before the project team gets me the information I need.
  • We know we have issues but we don’t know where to start.
  • We need to outsource our software development activities in order to cut costs.
  • The project team delivers poor quality software.
  • We have started using Agile for a small project and our management team wants us to scale it to the rest of the organization.

Agile principles can work for your Data Warehouse / Business Intelligence project but it is critical to determine which business problem you are trying to solve. Below, we are presenting a list of issues frequently encountered and we offer potential solutions to each of them.

 

What is your challenge?

My project team constantly misses deadlines.

How Agile can help

Implementing Scrum as your project management approach and the proper reporting tools (such as burn down charts) would help you anticipate potential delays and address your delays in a timely manner.

In addition, using frequent face-to-face communication instead of communicating through a project plan will increase your team’s productivity, performance and compliance to defined time lines.

 

What is your challenge?

The project team keeps exceeding its budget.

How Agile can help

The situation might be worse than you think because you may also be delivering the wrong functionality to your users.

Using long range planning often results in high variance in the actual budget being spent whereas delivering software in short iterations (up to 4 weeks) will allow you to better monitor your costs while ensuring you deliver the expected results.

 

What is your challenge?

My project team doesn’t deliver on the requirements.

How Agile can help

This could be two different issues – the requirements aren’t well defined by the end users or the requirements aren’t clearly understood by the development team.

In either case, enforcing close collaboration between the end users and the development team by co-locating the team and enforcing face-to-face communication will greatly increase the chances of delivering the right software.

You could turn the situation around by implementing the right processes which would allow you to welcome changes during the development phase and adapt to your changing business challenges.

 

What is your challenge?

The end users don’t know what they want.

How Agile can help

This is not unusual but it is not necessarily an issue with your end users. With most projects using a traditional software development methodology, end users are asked at the beginning of the project for their requirements and will eventually see the results months or years later once the software has been delivered.

With an Agile approach, end users are asked to define their short term requirements (for the next 4 weeks) instead of defining the entire scope of the project which will help the project team to deliver on the requirements.

 

What is your challenge?

The requirements keep changing and that constantly impact our project plan.

How Agile can help

Indeed, if you are using a traditional software development methodology you are likely to run into changes as the market dynamics evolve frequently. With an Agile approach, your team will not only learn to deal with changes in requirements but will even learn to embrace those changes and adapt accordingly.

 

What is your challenge?

The project team develops software components that don’t seem to have any business value and they seem to produce more paper than software.   

How Agile can help

Why are you? The focus of your development team should be to deliver value – working software. If for some reasons, a lot of your development team’s time, efforts and energy are spent working on documents (project plans, requirements, architecture, models, etc.) instead of working on software you probably need to reconsider the software development approach you are using.

Using a pragmatic and realistic approach like agile for your software development process will address the most critical problems typically encountered by a software development team and will greatly increase your return on investment.

 

What is your challenge?

My team develops software that doesn’t satisfy my users. Satisfying the requirements of your users is critical for a software development team and applying agile practices will greatly help.

How Agile can help

The integration of the business users as part of the development team is a great way to user their requirements are properly addressed. In addition, using techniques such as user stories that describe the features from an end-user perspective makes it easier for the development team to meet the requirements once it is clearly documented.

 

What is your challenge?

The project team usually finds problems very late in the development process.

How Agile can help

It is frequently recognized that the later you find problems in the process, the more expensive it becomes to fix them. Based on that conclusion, the implementation of an Agile software development approach forces the team to present the outcome of their labor to their users in order to demonstrate and test the software frequently which bring to the surface the issue.

 

What is your challenge?

The project team does not have the right skills.

How Agile can help

Although it may be possible that your team lacks some skills, it is unlikely that your people aren’t qualified for your project.

Your team might need some help and coaching around some specific software engineering practices and with the right coaching, they can improve their development skills.

 

What is your challenge?

The project team is tired, nobody is having fun and we are losing good people.

How Agile can help

It has frequently been proven that motivated employees deliver better results so if you want your project and your team to succeed,creating an environment where people can learn, work on challenging project and feel they are contributing to the success of the organisation will greatly help.

 

What is your challenge?

I need to wait a long time before the project team gets me the information I need.

How Agile can help

The business user and the development team may not be working closely together and you are probably using a traditional waterfall approach where the development team asks for requirements, goes off to develop and test the queries and reports and once they feel comfortable with the results will present them to the business users.

By including the business users within the project team and using an incremental development cycle, you would see the progress being made on your original request and could influence the amount of details required. Keeping small iterations and short feedback loops would allow you to quickly see how the development team is doing and quickly get access to the information you need.

 

What is your challenge?

We know we have issues but we don’t know where to start.

How Agile can help

An agile approach helps improve communications within the development team and with the business users. Having frequent demonstration of the system’s capabilities will quickly bring to the surface the issues and will allow the team to address them.

 

What is your challenge?

We need to outsource our software development activities in order to cut costs.

How Agile can help

Not necessarily, a better approach might help you reduce your costs. The Standish Group Study (Reported at XP2002 by Jim Johnson) showed that as much as 64% of system functionality was never used. Using an Agile approach to build the right software will immediately reduce the overall cost of developing software within your organization.

 

What is your challenge?

The project team delivers poor quality software.

How Agile can help

You may want to consider implementing test-driven development (TDD) where developers need to start by writing their test before developing new code or you may want to leverage pair programming.

In addition to changing the way you develop software, it would be beneficial to use short development cycle and demo the resulting products frequently in order to gain visibility to the software and address the issues in a timely fashion.

 

What is your challenge?

We have started using Agile for a small project and our management team wants us to scale it to the rest of the organization.

How Agile can help

Absolutely. Now that you have seen first hand the tremendous benefits of using Agile practices, you may want to coaching and guidance to help you roll out the new approach to the rest of your development organization and take full benefits at a larger scale.

 

 

* Picture by Mikey G Ottawa used under the Creative Commons (CC) agreement. The view expressed in the blog post is the one of the author. The photographer does not endorse in any way the content of this blog post or the work of the author.

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