DeployPartners has gone agile. The whole IT consulting market has gone Agile but we missed it. None of our customers were demanding that we go Agile but we recognise that they needed us to become more efficient and adaptive. In traditional delivery, these aspects of delivery are considered a contradiction so we reviewed how we delivered projects, what was successful and what could be improved. We also looked to the market and researched other methods. Then we asked ourselves “how was delivering OSS projects different?”. The big differentiator we identified was the dependencies – in OSS we are one of the last pieces of a large programme and control very little beyond our little patch. As one of the last stages of a new network or service before it becomes operational we need to work within fixed deadlines and outcomes depend on us successfully collaborating with many stakeholders and dependencies. So, to achieve what our customers need, we decided to adopt a hybrid delivery approach which has been rolled out for all our T&M and Fixed Price projects. We settled on the hybrid approach of Waterfall + Agile (SCRUM).
To deliver a project we have devised a four step process:
- Step 1 – STARTUP The first phase in the project is usually very short but in this phase we ensure the project is ready to begin.
- Step 2 – DISCOVERY The second phase is to confirm and further detail the requirements (stories) to allow for development.
- Step 3 – BUILD The third step is the biggest phase in a delivery. It usually consists of multiple sprints that develop the solution into incremental building blocks for deployment.
- Step 4 – DEPLOY The final phase is taking each solution building block into production. This phase, like BUILD, can occur multiple times within a project.
Only the BUILD phase of a project could be considered AGILE. This is where the vast majority of value is created and time taken on a project.
Customers still want outcomes and they want it for a fixed price. The key characteristics of the waterfall approach are fixed scope and fixed start and end times.
Things change within the project and things can be traded. An Agile approach mitigates the inherent risks and provides:
- A proven method for software based delivery
- Fast feedback cycle and customer participation
- Evolving requirements and solutions through collaboration
- Time to value – a sprint cycle can ideally deliver a MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
- Focus on value not the process
What will existing customers notice?
The immediate difference is far more communication & requests for feedback. You and your organisation will be invited to collaborate using:
- Requirements will be captured as “stories”.
- Request for Requirement (Story) approvals
- Scope trading
Often we have been faced with the inability to showcase our work until the end of a project. Which, as you would expect, is a high risk proposition. We now put in the effort to create demonstration datasets so we can provide demos to stakeholders much earlier in the projects. This really has enabled us to deliver lower risk engagements.
Importantly for customers using the hybrid approach we are better able to trade scope and avoid change requests. The best time to change is the start so that’s why we hold workshops upfront to identify as much detail as possible.
Like all change, there was resistance. Not only from engineering but from pre-sales and project management. When we embarked on this journey we certainly underestimated the impact to almost every part of the business. Every proposal, estimate, delivery project template had to change and go through many iterations before we started to achieve some success.
We hoped to initially reach 50:50 Waterfall and Agile mix. But the initial reality was much closer to 80:20 towards waterfall. Yet, as stakeholders started to see the benefits of Agile, we are getting closer to the original target after just a few months.
We are now three months into applying modified Agile/Scrum methods. We have found that delivery is far more interested in the pre-sales process. So much so that we have also recently started using stories for pre-sales and are including them in our SoW. This means we are seeing more detail and better planning upfront which, in turn, allows for better projects for our clients. We have also noticed that, by creating stories, Project Managers are also able to better understand the scope for very technical projects – which is very empowering. This means a greater buy in with stakeholders and Project Managers in particular are more confident speaking to stakeholders, managing dependencies and assessing the impacts and ultimately freeing the developers to develop.
We are at the beginning on our Agile journey but we are already starting to see success. Customers and vendors alike are now asking us to help them to deliver projects in a predictable manner with a customer focus. That, for us, is great feedback and validation that we are on the right path!
If you are a new or existing customer and are as excited as us about the opportunities that an Agile OSS Delivery can bring to your projects please use the form below to get in touch and we’ll set up a meeting and provide a detailed demonstration of our OSS Agile Delivery process.