Time and Distance Enemies of Agile Project Management

f you haven't read Nassim Taleb 'Anti-Fragile,' it's time to break out your e-reader. Big software projects are constitutionally doomed because they're fragile. Agile may be the way to go, but what can you do to make sure your agile project doesn't become fragile?

By David Taber
Thu, July 11, 2013
Page 3

There's a nasty consequence of delays and interruptions. They eat away at trust and credibility—for everyone. Companies have a pretty short memory, even if individuals have lasting impressions. Since trust is the critical ingredient of collaboration, and tight collaboration is the foundation of agile, you can see how delays are destructive.

Of course, delay causes completion date slip, but it also causes scope creep. Even if nothing else changes, delay multiplies learning curve and configuration management costs. Start and stop an agile project often enough, and overruns will be inevitable.

The best metric is expressing cumulative delay interruption as a percentage of the nominal agile sprint cycle. Anything below 50 percent is negligible, particularly if you have two-week cycles, anything between 50 and 150 percent requires special attention, and anything over 150 percent indicates that the project is already in trouble.

Optimal vs. Suboptimal Agile: The Proof's in the Pudding

Our firm has a clear example of an agile project that was done on site with no interruptions, versus one that's offsite with typical big-company interruptions. The team was the same, the project scope was directly comparable—and the results are clear.

The first sprint involved a trip to Europe for an on-site intensive. The second offsite sprint, which actually was a smaller deliverable, cost at least 50 percent more (even including the travel savings) and took more than a month longer on the calendar. User satisfaction was equivalent.

Optimizing an agile project means minimizing time and space. If distance and delay are realities for your team, make sure to apply every countermeasure you can think of and lower expectations of the users and budget holders.

David Taber is the author of the Prentice Hall book, "Salesforce.com Secrets of Success" and is the CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified Salesforce.com consultancy focused on business process improvement through use of CRM systems. SalesLogistix clients are in North America, Europe, Israel and India. Taber has more than 25 years of experience in high tech, including 10 years at the VP level or above.

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