Culture Shifts

holders must not overreact to early mistakes, digressions, or immature designs. Evaluation criteria in early release plans are goals, not requirements. If early engineering obstacles are overemphasized, development organizations will set up future iterations to be less ambitious. On the other hand, stakeholders should not tolerate lack of follow-through in resolving issues. If negative trends are not addressed with vigor, they can cause serious downstream perturbations. Open and attentive follow-through is necessary to resolve issues. The management team is most likely to resist this transition (especially if the project was oversold), because it will expose any engineering or process issues that were easy to hide using the conventional process. Customers, users, and the engineering team will embrace this transition for exactly the same reason.

• Good and bad project performance is much more obvious earlier in the life cycle. In an iterative development, success breeds success, and early failures are extremely risky to turn around. Real-world project experience has shown time and again that it is the early phases that make or break a project. It is therefore of paramount importance to ensure that the very best team possible performs the planning and architecture phases. If these phases are done right and with good teams, projects can be completed successfully by average teams evolving the applications into the final product. If the planning and architecture phases are not performed adequately, all the expert programmers and testers in the world probably will not achieve success. No one should resist early staffing with the right team. However, most organizations have scarce resources for these sorts of early life-cycle roles and are hesitant to make the necessary staff allocations.

• Early increments will be immature. External stakeholders, such as customers and users, cannot expect initial deliveries to perform up to specification, to be complete, to be fully reliable, or to have end-target levels of quality or performance. On the other hand, development organizations must be held accountable for, and demonstrate, tangible improvements in successive increments. The trends will indicate convergence toward specification. Objectively quantifying changes, fixes, and upgrades will indicate the quality of the process and environment for future activities. Customers and users will have difficulty accepting the flaws of early releases, although they should be impressed by later increments. Management and the development team will accept immaturity as a natural part of the process.

• Artifacts are less important early, more important later. It is a waste of time to worry about the details (traceability, thoroughness, and completeness) of the artifact sets until a baseline is achieved that is useful enough and stable enough to warrant time-consuming analyses of these quality factors.

Otherwise, a project will squander early engineering cycles and precious resources adding content and quality to artifacts that may quickly become obsolete. While the development team will embrace this transition wholeheartedly, traditional contract monitors will resist the early de-emphasis on completeness.

• Real issues are surfaced and resolved systematically. Successful projects recognize that requirements and designs evolve together, with continuous negotiation, trade-off, and bartering toward best value, rather than blindly adhering to an ambiguous contract statement. On a healthy project that is making progress, it should be easy to differentiate between real and apparent issues. Depending on the situation, this culture shift could affect almost any team.

• Quality assurance is everyone's job, not a separate discipline. Many organizations have a separate group called quality assurance. I am generally against the concept of separate quality assurance activities, teams, or artifacts. Quality assurance should be woven into every role, every activity, every artifact. True quality assurance is measured by tangible progress and objective data, not by checklists, meetings, and human inspections. The software project manager or designee should assume the role of ensuring that quality assurance is properly integrated into the process. The traditional policing by a separate team of inspectors is replaced by the self-policing teamwork of an organization with a mature process, common objectives, and common incentives. Traditional managers and quality assurance personnel will resist this transition. Engineering teams will embrace it.

• Performance issues arise early in the life cycle. Early performance issues have surfaced on almost every successful project I know of. These issues are a sign of an immature design but a mature design process. Stakeholders will usually be concerned over early performance issues. Development engineers will embrace the emphasis on early demonstrations and the ability to assess and evaluate performance trade-offs in subsequent releases.

• Investments in automation are necessary. Because iterative development projects require extensive automation, it is important not to underinvest in the capital environment. It is also important for stakeholders to acquire an integrated environment that permits efficient participation in an iterative development. Otherwise, interactions with the development organization will degenerate to paper exchange and many of the issues of the conventional process. These investments may be opposed by organization managers overly focused on near-term financial results or by project personnel who favor the preference of the individual project over the global solution that serves both the project and the organization goals.

• Good software organizations should be more profitable. In the commercial software domain, this is not an issue. In most of the software contracting domain, especially government contracts, it is definitely an issue. As part of the adversarial nature of the acquisition and contracting process, there is considerable focus on ensuring that contractor profits are within a certain acceptable range (typically 5% to 15%). Occasionally, excellent contractor performance, good value engineering, or significant reuse results in potential contractor profit margins in excess of the acceptable initial bid. As soon as customers (or their users or engineering monitors) become aware of such a trend, it is inevitable that substantial pressure will be exerted to apply these "excess" resources to out-of-scope changes until the margin is back in the acceptable range.

As a consequence, the simple profit motive that underlies commercial transactions and incentivizes efficiency is replaced by complex contractual incentives (and producer-consumer conflicts) that are usually suboptimal. Very frequently, contractors see no economic incentive to implement major cost savings, and certainly there is little incentive to take risks that may have a large return. On the other hand, contractors can easily consume large amounts of money (usually at a small profit margin) without producing results and with little accountability for poor performance.

For the software industry to prosper, good contractors should be rewarded (more profit) and bad contractors should be punished (less profit). A customer who gets a good product at a reasonable price should be happy that the contractor also made a good profit. Allowing contractors who perform poorly to continue doing so is not good for anyone. This is one area in which the commercial domain is far more effective than the government contracting domain.

Was this article helpful?

0 -1
Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment