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Agile Project Experiences - The Story of Three Little Pigs

Talk delivered by Craig Smith and Paul King at Agile 2008 in Toronto, Canada on 5 August 2008.

Over the last few years, we have agrressively applied agile practices on a number of projects with success. These successes, however, have not been achieved without challenges and lessons learnt along the way. This experience report specifically highlights examples from three different projects of varying sizes in this period in the same organisation (three little pigs) where in all cases the pigs were well and truly committed.

Some of the key successes from the example projects will also be discussed.

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Agile Project Experiences - The Story of Three Little Pigs

  1. 1. ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008 Agile Project Experiences The Story of Three Little Pigs Craig Smith Suncorp, Australia Dr Paul King ASERT, Australia Agile 2008 - 1
  2. 2. ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008 Topics • Introduction • Straw • Sticks • Bricks • Conclusions Agile 2008 - 2Image source: http://www.threelittlepigs.ca/game
  3. 3. The projects • Every project will have different characteristics – Shouldn’t expect one size to fit all • Straw – Insurance processing system – Most team members fairly new to agile – Team geographically dispersed • Sticks – Batch processing system enhancement – Deemed too small for agile – Small enough to plan up front? • Bricks – Large enterprise document processing system built across 3 phases/2 years – Very XP focused within but sometimes misunderstood outside the team Agile 2008 - 3 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008 Images source: http://math-www.uni-paderborn.de/~odenbach/pigs
  4. 4. Project ‘Straw’ … • Challenges – Geographically and technically dispersed team • Senior technicians in one city, graduates and vendor in another • Rotational travel, daily scrum and project meetings for communication • Pair programming  Peer programming – Daily sitdown • Conference phone call = sit down habit • No easy way to reference visual cues – The four-week syndrome • Follow Scrum “by the book” • Not enough planning, filling tasks to time • Revert to 2 week sprints, XP planning game – Releasing before we are done • Release sprint at beginning of last week • No urgency for tests and backlog Agile 2008 - 4 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008
  5. 5. … Project ‘Straw’ • Lessons Learnt – One chance to influence • Education on techniques not enough, such as TDD and pair programming • Need a coach or mentor to reinforce – Challenge the different • Knocking over roadblocks helps teams that follow • Commitment from management helps – Technology helps, but collocation is better • Video conferencing and virtual desktops made team feel close • When team travelled and were really together, productivity appeared better Agile 2008 - 5 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008
  6. 6. Project ‘Sticks’ … • Challenges – The busy customer • Not colocated and busy on many tasks • Use of IM for quick discussion • Agile sessions such as iteration kickoff and retrospective important – Start waterfall, finish agile • Not too late to start • Rewrite requirements to storycards and prioritize • Wrote storycards for customer with them reviewing to aid acceptance • Use of XPlanner and Wiki to share progress and information Agile 2008 - 6 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008
  7. 7. … Project ‘Sticks’ • Lessons Learnt – Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you drop the ball • Demonstrate use of techniques even on a fairly small project, no overhead • Pair programming used for skills transfer and shared experiences – Short project equals short iteration cycles and big progress • One week iterations for quick progress updates • Customer knew work was on track and meeting goals Agile 2008 - 7 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008
  8. 8. Project ‘Bricks’ … • Challenges – Honesty leads to trust • Train management to recognize honesty, not jump to fix small issues • Move from questioning to sheltering – Bring your own screwdriver • Making do with the surroundings sometimes means some DIY • Clamps, partitions, whiteboards • Opted for more isolated but more suitable accommodation – Be careful what you promote • Enthusiasm is not always shared by management and peers • Fly under the radar and demonstrate techniques through results Agile 2008 - 8 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008
  9. 9. … Project ‘Bricks’ • Lessons Learnt – Build it and they will come • Good people are attracted to good teams, through word of mouth • Others admired culture and practices – Turning the dials to eleven and doing XP to the extreme • Innovative and continuous improvement environment • High commitment to code quality – Everyone has a voice • Technical team discussions to solve problems • FIX and TODO comments to document discussions and direction – Design up-front when appropriate • Customer API designed up front • Rest of system designed on demand Agile 2008 - 9 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008
  10. 10. Conclusion … • What to do about wolves? – Wolves are any influences that threaten to blow away project success • Internal wolves dressed as sheep • Packs of non-believer wolves looking for any strange-looking projects to devour • And even well-meaning management wolves not familiar with where we keep our pots of boiling water! – We certainly observed many kinds of wolves at one stage or another • Some were threatened because reward structures ended with delivery to production not success in production • Some were skeptical because we had no shared understanding of what quality or agile meant (a new CIO wolf is fixing this organization wide now) – While many of these wolves were very capable of large scale huffing and puffing, in the case of our three projects, they were resilient enough to not be blown down Agile 2008 - 10 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008 Image source: gamehiker.com
  11. 11. … Conclusion • Moral of the story – Can’t construct all projects of the finest materials – No defined template that can be rolled out verbatim to agile practices – Storycard estimation remains difficult but an appropriate set of tools and agile responsiveness help – Obtaining and keeping team focus is a key for an agile team and different for every project • Futures – An agile change program is being lead by senior management and rolled out across the organization and the current projects that we are involved in are using the lessons learnt from these Agile 2008 - 11 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008 Image source: The Bleachers, Steve Moore
  12. 12. Sneak peek… For Agile 2009 in Chicago... Agile 2008 - 12 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008 Working Title “Goldilocks & The Three Bears”... Projects aren‘t getting blown over anymore. It all about the warmth of the porridge and removing the lumps...
  13. 13. About the contributing organizations • About ASERT – ASERT helps organisations define and make best use of their eBusiness platforms by providing professional and cost- effective training and consulting & system development solutions including but not limited to Agile development, Java/J2EE development, Groovy and Grails development, SOA and web services implementations and agile deployment. • About Suncorp – Suncorp is one of Australia and New Zealand's largest diversified financial services providers, supplying banking, insurance and wealth management products to around 7 million customers through well-established and recognized brands such as AAMI, Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency, Shannons, Vero, Asteron and Tyndall, as well as Suncorp and GIO. Today, Suncorp is Australia's sixth largest bank and second largest domestic general insurance group, with over 16,000 staff. Suncorp has representation in 450 offices, branches and agencies throughout Australia and New Zealand. Agile 2008 - 13 ©ASERT/Suncorp2006-2008