Here at Envitia, we’ve been using Agile methods since 1998 – initially using DSDM and more recently using Scrum. In one particular project I recall, we had two phases. The first phase was waterfall and suffered from the common problems associated with complex projects. For the second phase, we persuaded the end user customer and the intermediate system integrator to trial an Agile approach. The difference was astonishing. The system integrator reported a 400% increase in the productivity of their engineers and the project was successfully delivered on time, to budget and full of the high value, high quality features that the end user wanted.
So what made the difference? Fundamentally it was a change in the mind-set of all involved. The key was regular, active, decisive customer engagement followed by action on those decisions. This is encapsulated within one of the four key tenets of the Agile Manifesto, published in 2001:
• Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
So how does that translate into real life? In a Scrum approach, the customer should ideally provide a single point of contact that has the knowledge and authority to make decisions over what is done during the project. They need to have a reasonable idea of what is needed, but up-front prediction of what the final system should be isn’t necessary, as long as they can make timely decisions at each step of the way. They could fulfil the Scrum Product Owner role. The beauty of an Agile approach, executed well, is that the end result isn’t necessarily what was envisioned at the start of the project, but it has maximised the value delivered to the business. More often than not, it’s what they actually wanted, not what they thought they wanted!
Scrum has several “ceremonies” that need this active engagement, along with other tasks that move on in parallel with the main development. The Release and Sprint planning meetings are obvious candidates for customer involvement, along with the Sprint Review. It is critical however that they are also engaged in the evolution of the Product Backlog (requirements) that should go on alongside the actual development – often termed Product Backlog grooming. This allows the planning of the next sprint to be efficient and effective. Without this key collaboration taking place beforehand, the planning meeting can devolve into a debate about what was meant, or wasted through lack of agreement awaiting external approval. By the time of the meeting, all requirements that are to be considered should meet the INVEST criteria. Ideally the customer should also be available for clarifications throughout the Sprint, by telephone or Webex if necessary.
From the developer side, there is a need for understanding of the value of what’s being delivered so that implementation decisions can be taken with that value in mind. Developers need to be able to effectively show what they have done and be responsive to change and feedback. They need to help break down larger stories into smaller more manageable pieces. The quality of what is delivered needs to be appropriate, so that the customer understanding of the delivery is valid.
So to answer my original question: Talk to us, regularly. Make decisions, quickly. Provide feedback. Get involved! That way, together we can deliver maximum value to your business at minimum cost.
Dave Vint - Chief Engineer
Refreshing to read a pragmatic article discussing the value achieved by implementing a hybrid Open Source GI solution
Envitia attended the OGC January Technical Committee (TC) Meeting in Redlands California. This was a busy meeting with many domain working groups (DWGs) and standards development groups (SWGs) all week and presentations of the latest OGC Web Services (OWS) Test-bed 9 taking centre stage.
The first key event at the TC was an open demonstration of a number of clients interacting via the recently released (for public comment) OWS Context Document draft standard. The Envitia ChartLink Client generated an OWS Context document representing a Common Operating Picture (COP) view of an impending Environmental disaster event. This ‘COP’ could then loaded by Terradue, CREAF, ESRI and PYXIS Innovation developed clients and the COP further exploited. Envitia, are co-chair of the OWS Context standards development group and have committed to extensive support for this standard as it evolves.
Another evolving standard, the GeoPackage standard, aimed at providing a block of controlled data for disconnected mobile platforms was also progressed at the TC. This is another standard to watch. Envitia are active participants in this SWG as well as in the WCS SWG, Geo-semantics SWG, Security DWG, Met Ocean DWG, Defence and Security DWG, and Business Value Committee.
During the TC many OWS-9 Engineering reports were presented and voted on. Dr Gobe Hobona presented the Semantic Mediation Engineering Report to the Geo-semantics Domain Working Group. This was well received as was the presentation by Roger Brackin of the Aviation Portrayal Engineering Report. All in all Envitia were involved in four threads of OWS-9 (Aviation, Cross-community Interoperability, Mobile Innovations and Coverage Innovations and provided input to many of the Engineering Reports.
At the Closing Plenary Clemens Portele presented the status of the GeoServices REST API standard which is close to the point where it will be ready for voting. This is a controversial standard, being a ‘gift’ from a major GIS Vendor and has polarised the OGC membership as it overlaps with many existing OGC standards and is offered on what has been described by many as a take it or leave it basis. It will be interesting to see if its progress to official OGC standard status is approved by the membership.
Roger Brackin is Director of Research and Technology, Envitia