Agile services delivery is the framework that will drive efficiency
Agile Services Delivery encourages a high-performance culture

Agile Services Delivery, an approach that places the customer and individual front and centre, in the software delivery life cycle is being lauded by software experts as the framework that will drive efficiency, especially in the public sector.

Tamique Hines, senior manager of software engineering at MC Systems, the technology company of The Jamaica National Group, said that the framework has many attributes that outweighs other methods in the market.

“It (Agile Services Delivery) facilitates speed to market and rapid feedback and accommodates continuous improvements. These are the hallmarks of Agile. Our markets and competition are moving extremely fast, and a product or service may no longer be viable or relevant if it is takes a year to two years to get it into production. Many opportunities can be missed which puts companies at a disadvantage,” she pointed out.

“These short release cycles lend itself to faster feedback from the customers and, the ability to respond to changes much faster. There is also an increased level of transparency and accountability,” she said, pointing out that there are a number of mechanisms in Agile which demonstrates progress throughout the process.

Expounding on the transparency, she said the quick feedback loop lends itself to accountability and the team being able to say they are having an issue and working together to resolve them.

She said that another advantage of this approach is that it builds high-performing teams. “You have the teams working together and taking time to regularly review what worked and what didn’t work in each iteration – making provisions to improve in the next cycle. This helps to build high performing teams,” she informed.

Agreeing with Hines, Steve McConnell, chief executive officer of Construx, MC Systems Software Development partner, said that with other methodologies, such as the Waterfall model, the problems were not easily identified when executing a project.

The water fall model is a breakdown of project activities into linear sequential phases, where each phase depends on the deliverables of the previous one and corresponds to a specialization of tasks.

“I think this is a plus as it was too easy to bury problems in Waterfall – the check points in Agile are a plus,” he pointed out. “I think that being able to raise your hand and say that you have a problem is important. Teams need to decriminalize mistakes. Mistakes are part of what we do, the key is not to bury them, but to raise them and fix them quickly.”

An author of the award-winning book, ‘Code Complete’, McConnell noted that Agile delivery is more inclusive of the customer, unlike other approaches  in the past that were dismissive to what the customer wanted. He said the Agile framework is more interactive.

Agile Also Has Pitfalls

McConnell, who is named among the three most influential people in the software industry, along with Bill Gates and Linus Torvalds, noted that the framework was not perfect and also has pitfalls.

“One of the very common challenges that we see is that the idea that you have a changed team that wants to be agile, but they are working with an unchanged organisation and the team becomes frustrated,” he said, pointing out that there are agile boundaries in organisations that are not receptive to change.

He pointed out that persons must be strategic in working around the agile boundaries.

Overcoming Pitfalls

Hines noted that these pitfalls can be overcome by understanding your ‘Why’, and what following an Agile approach means to your organisation knowing what the organisation is trying to achieve with this adoption.

“Implementing agile services because everyone else is putting it in place, is not practical. You must want efficiency and receptive to the changes,” she said.

In addressing the Agile boundaries, she noted that it is good to understand the current boundaries which can lead to challenges and misalignment overall. She said understanding the challenges and learning how to clear them can make the challenges easier.

“Successful agile implementation needs support from team members and management. A possible way to overcome that is having a road map and all stakeholders will need a mutual understanding of what the organisation is trying to achieve,” she informed.

She said showing and communicating the process is also very important. Hines said there needs to be training of inexperienced teams. Enabling collaboration and encouraging a learning environment by forming a ‘communities of practice’ where groups of people collaborate regularly – encouraging knowledge sharing.

“It is also important to keep your teams stable, especially if you are just starting. You need your teams to grow with each other, to mature and develop a cadence so that they can in fact produce the value that is required,” she said.

In adding to this, McConnell said that agile is really inspecting and adapting because you are constantly looking at what you are doing and trying to improve it.

“To me this is really the core as it cuts against superficial Agile theatre. One of the pitfalls is a failure to adapt. The idea of agile is to be flexible and responsive,” he said.

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