Waterfall, Agile, now “Sim”?

Dan Woods in Forbes (here) highlights one of the emerging trends in development: user-interface simulation.  This takes agile development a step further, because…

[b]y creating a simulation of the user experience, instead of a full-working version, a team can avoid a large amount of work but still get a full test that can confirm requirements. Simulation accelerates the agile cycle by lowering the cost of each iteration and improving the quality of the feedback. At the end of several simulation iterations, designers have a rock-solid sense of what is needed.

Simulation also provides a better way to test the quality of business processes because it improves on the typical flow diagrams that only sophisticated users can understand.

iRise is the vendor that Woods mentions and that I’ve heard of (here).  They have a SAP-oriented solution (here), but I can’t vouch for it yet.

Also, because this piece is in Forbes, I’ll bet that smart c-level folks will soon be asking their PMOs about whether they are incorporating this approach into their methodologies.  Time to crack the “sim” books!

SAP Virtualization and Green IT

Sometimes it is easy being green!

Sometimes it is easy being green!

There was great interest in last week’s SAP Virtualization event (SAP Virtualization Week 2009 page here, the SAP Virtualization homepage on the SAP Community network is here).   As Courtney Bjorlin notes (post here), Green IT has been an SAP priority for a while::

SAP offered an open invitation to any partners or customers who want to join the Green IT community. All they have to do is email GreenIT@SAP.com for more information.  “From a customer perspective, it’s a great way to become an early adopter of solutions and then to go and deploy those solutions,” said Peter Graf, who was named SAP’s first chief sustainability officer in March.

Courtney quotes Peter further on how virtualization is “easy” green, so to speak…

“For me, the natural first step in green IT is virtualization,” Graf said.  But why deploy these initiatives now? Graf elicited a few chuckles from the crowd when he remarked that even the mention of “green IT” had some participants nodding off. So he focused on a crowd pleaser — cost savings.  Graf put up numbers from an SAP customer that reduced its application servers from 218 to 116, and saved $714,000 on maintenance, $162,000 on facilities, $1,468 on staff and $13,520 on servers — reducing its total costs by 36%.

Virtualization soon will be part of almost every SAP project or program, so read up!

PMI and Agilests?

Cats and dogs, living together...

Cats and dogs, living together...

Greg Balestrero — CEO of the Project Management Institute — recently posted (here) on his experiences at the Scrum Gathering in Orlando.  In my experience, Greg and the PMI staff have been very eager to foster a better relationship among the various methodology camps.  Per Greg’s post,

[t]he intent of the visit was to bridge the gap between the Scrum Alliance and PMI. But I guess the real reason we attended was to dispel the myths that surround the PMBOK® Guide and Agile practice. There is a widely held opinion that the PMBOK® Guide and Agile don’t mix… they can’t be “shaken, nor stirred” together. 

Please read the post…it gives an interesting perspective on how to build alliances among disparate points of view and how to overcome misconceptions.

Why get involved w/ industry associations?

One of the reasons I’ve been remiss in my posting is that I’ve been preparing to host the Spring 2009 executive forum of PMI’s Global Corporate Council.  My SAP colleagues did a great job helping me host and this forum was particularly productive.

“Networking” is a pat response when one talks about joining or leading industry groups.  What exactly that means came home to me after discussions with my counterparts from Siemens, Joe Sopko and Kevin McDevitt.  On two topics, just a few minutes of conversation helped me confirm the validity of one approach (on how to augment on program management content) and introduced a better metaphor (for the architecture of our new methodology).

Nothing big, eh?  But how much benchmarking and justification will I avoid because I can say “well, Siemens had a similar problem and they did X“?

Conditions for “organized emergence”

Emmanuel Gobillot commented on my post on self-organization (here).  I liked his comment so much that I thought it was worth highlighting below:

I have found four conditions which need to be in place for communities to be productive.  I called these

Simplicity (a coherent and simple way to engage),
Narrative (an underpinning story for people to align to),
Tasks (a clear set of tasks which participants can measure against their self image) and
Love (the willingness to commit to making others stronger).

These elements encourage emergence but are better designed. In many ways this explains the need for the famous “benevolent dictators” we have come to identify with emergent systems.

IMO, community-building often focuses on conditions 1&4, especially in knowledge management efforts.  Addressing these topics seems to attract membership, but this tactic only meets some of a community’s needs.  Without the structure and content provided by conditions 2&3, communities are only coherent and useful for those most interested in conversation and networking.

In my experience, very interesting conversations spring up in “Simplicity” and “Love”-centric communities.  However, there are so many stories being told that it is hard to pick a single thread and follow it through to closure.  Without an over-arching “Narrative” that values the “Task” work — something like “Community X’s mission is to create a knowledge sharing network and promote re-use of recommended practices in strategic topics A, B, and C” — the community becomes all talk, no deliverables.

Using SCRUM with ASAP

Ron Stanton sent me a mail asking how SCRUM works with our implementation methodology — ASAP for Implementation. While SAP does have a SCRUM methodology that we use — SAPScrum — it is an internal approach used for solution development.  SAPScrum is pretty straight SCRUM, so there’s no mystery to it.

We just started a project to make ASAP more agile-friendly, we’re a little ways from publishing it. For now, below are a few general guidelines in using SCRUM in an ASAP environment.

  1. The first principle is to remember that the SAP solution(s) serves as the development platform or environment. It isn’t simply an application to which you’re integrating.
  2. Of course, a product backlog should be one of the outputs of the Blueprint phase. The product backlog should be mapped to the processes here (as part of identifying testing scenarios).
  3. Appropriate prioritization of the backlog is critical in an SAP environment. In particular, non-technical product owners often forget to include integration dependencies as one of the prioritization criteria.
  4. Sprints need to synch with the various ASAP configuration/testing cycles (e.g., unit test, string test, etc) for the overall solution.
  5. It is critical to ensure that custom development sprints are scheduled so that the sprint output delivers to the relevant testing cycle.
  6. Most ASAP config/testing cycles are typically 2-4 weeks long, so one sprint:one config/test cycle is reasonable. If the project is especially large — with longer config/test cycles — then consider nesting sprints within those longer cycles.

Goals and the limits of self-organization

Thought-provoking post by Jurgen Appelo on the teleology of software projects (post here, check the perceptive comments too).  More properly, he points out that projects do not have a goal in and of themselves.  In his words, they don’t have intrinsic goals (other than self-preservation).

For me, this insight points to the limits of self-organization in initiatives.   IMO, without some degree of design — or extrinsic goals — a self-organized system (or pieces of that system) can get off the rails.  There is a tremendous amount of power in emergent-friendly systems — that’s what social media is all about.   For example, what emerges from Wikipedia is clearly emergent, but it has a explicit goal and with an extrinsic design model:

Wikipedia’s purpose is to act as an encyclopedia, a comprehensive written compendium that contains information on all branches of knowledge

Finding the proper balance between design and emergence is a fascinating topic.  In fact, my take is that this topic is the subtext of many of the arguments among methodology adherents — waterfall vs. agile. 

I’m always a bit leery of purist arguments.  In fact, I have a syncretist’s instinct to “square the circle”.  Perhaps what I’m looking for is something like Deng Xiaoping’s modifications to traditional Marxist dogma…   How about “Waterfall with Agile Characteristics”?

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