Saturday, August 10, 2013

Is your engineering team leaning to "Heaven" or "Hell" ?

Listening to the legendary Eagles, Hell Freezes Over album, it always touches a high point for me with the lyrics -

I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
'This could be heaven or this could be Hell

Well the mission for the engineering team(s) is to provide a continuous flow of business value to the stakeholders, with stable teams working at a sustainable pace, while improving their technical excellence daily.

But do we really know if we are any closer to achieving this mission or are we simply stuck and wondering if we are holed up and have no way out ?

So to find the answer, take this 20 Questions survey below and SCORE your engineering team(s) to check your WAY,  and find if you are indeed leaning towards Heaven or Hell ?

For each question below, use this RATINGS SCALE below to assign a score to your response -
1 – 4  : No , we do not ….……you are possibly closer to HELL than you think ~~
5 – 7  : we try and succeed mostly…..you are moving closer to Heaven
8 – 10 : we do this almost every time and love it ..you are reaching HEAVEN-ly Bliss !!

Prerequisites:

1. Are using ‘High Maturity’ Engineering Practices and Tools ?
2. Do you have Sponsors commitment to Technical Excellence ?
3. Do you have Collective Team Ownership ?
4. Do you have Stable Team(s) ?

Agile Development Process :

5. Do you have Business Value driven requirements from Stakeholders ?
6. Does your Product Manager, Business Sponsor and Architect\lead do collaborative product discovery ?
7. Do you capture requirements using Acceptance Tests (possibly with Automated frameworks) ?
8. Do you follow Evolutionary Design for emergent requirements ?
9. Do you follow pair programming development + Test Driven Development frameworks ?
10. Do you have a culture of Continuous Refactoring ?
11. Do you have limited Work in Progress in your sprints ?
12. Do you have Pre-Submit Development Checks ? include writing Unit Tests + peer Code Reviews
13. Do you have Continuous Integration for Daily\Weekly builds, followed by Post Submit Checks including Static Analysis, Code Coverage, and Technical Debt metrics published to everyone ?
14. Do you do Continuous Testing at all levels (unit, component, feature, system, including non functional) ?
15. Do you use Feature toggling and Release Trains (based on Product Management launch decisions) ?

Continuous Feedback , Demos, Collaboration, Insights and Rewards :

16. Do you share for you  products, solutions: Continuous Alpha, Beta builds - company-wide at a common location for access by everyone ?
17. Do you have Continuous Deployment for Hosted (Saas) solutions (DevOps) ?
18. Do you have Monthly Open Spaces for Company-wide Demos ?
19. Do you have Quarter end Major Launch Demo’s, Customer experience Talks for insights / feedback ?
20. Do you follow Peer Ratings and Portfolio Rewards for your teams ?

Calculate your FINAL SCORE !!!

Hope your final score helps you to review your current state and push forward to the Heavenly bliss…!

Till then –
'Relax' said the night man,
'We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!'

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Enterprise Customer Feedback : Lost Horizon or Last Horizon ?


Are your enterprise customers giving you the feedback when your engineering team wants it or do you lose your delivery heartbeats with late or non existent customer feedback ? To explore this further, let's rewind while fast forwarding a little.

Today the future of Business and IT is to GO Digital, with an increased need for the CMO and CIO to coordinate and deliver value to their stakeholders. But the 2013 Gartner study for CIO's indicates that this customer value delivery gap is still a major challenge with "the vast majority of IT organizations need to address fundamental gaps in their performance".

Thought it appears that the IT world has in the last decade or so made some progress with this metric of delivering customer value, (quote below) and have started to learn and some are now able to Build-IT-RIGHT now unlike the past, but still there is a long way to go....(68% still feel that customer value is not delivered by IT)

32% of the respondents felt that delivering customer value was most valued by their organization’s executives for the delivery of Scrum-based projects 
Source: State of Scrum 2013, Scrum Alliance

This intense focus on the ability to Build-IT-RIGHT is primarily thanks to the force of iterative agile delivery model with short iterations combined with some XP practices of pair programming, test driven development, and continuous delivery (including continuous integration and continuous deployment) .

But Build-IT-RIGHT assumes that the "closed loop" will always have a customer onsite, ready to provide instant feedback and ignores the dark reality of the real world scenarios. But in my experience most IT teams implementing agile methodologies today face one or more of these situations :
  1. No colocated Customer with the IT team
  2. No colocated Customer representative with the IT team (Product Owners are just a bad substitute!)
  3. Customer feedback is non existent
  4. Customer feedback rarely  - once in a year via Customer Advisory Board or similar
  5. Customer feedback has long cycles typically more than 6 months 
The naysayers will indeed argue for the Cloud based application deployments which may be a rising trend with a tepid growth but the majority of the world is still run by enterprise applications hosted internally by the customer IT teams, and hence have a LOOONG phase gate approach to accepting new versions. The old IT world mindset still rules with mistrust and high risk as key factors for accepting the status-quo.

For the few lucky organizations, the new world mindset allows them to embrace the Lean Startup mode, with A/B tests as rapid feedback, Dual Scrum tracks and Continuous Delivery models. But this closing of the feedback loop is still a long way to go mainstream. Till then we are close to  there but still missing out on the Last Horizon to achieving IT and Business agility.

In Summary, with the IT teams as both a consumer and a provider of services to the business, this new mindset is an opportunity for the CIO's to conquer this LOST Horizon !

What's your experience on customer feedback (especially enterprise customers) ? Have you captured this LAST Horizon ? or are you losing the horizon ?

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