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Agile & Process Maturity – Of Course They Mix!

  • 09/12/2010
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR

Over the coming days, we will be adding blog reports specific to EuroSTAR 2009 from a variety of different contributors. The article below is from Eamonn McGuinness of Brightwork, Ireland.

Last year at EuroSTAR in Holland, Gitte Ottesen from Denmark was voted the best speaker and was invited back to keynote at this year’s conference in Sweden.  Gitte works in a CMMi Level 5 certified company – Systematic – so it was going to be interesting to hear Gitte talk about agility!

Gitte presented the Agile Manifesto and explained that most sane people would consider that process and CMMi in particular would be perceived as non-agile.  Gitte explained that they wanted to be process compliant and agile at the same time.  And it gets worse – as Gitte wanted to be agile and also compliant with three international process standards – ISO 9000 and AQAP 150 and 2001 (military standards!) and CMMI Level 5.

Ironically as I was listening to Gitte speak I might have been listening to Fintan who manages our development at BrightWork.  The development approach was very similar to the one we use at BrightWork.  On the agile front they do follow the Scrum approach.  But they also do long term planning – and have a product backlog.  They moved from waterfall to story based development.  They merged the best of Lean and Scrum to get their story based development.  They also moved from a small number of longer projects to many shorter projects as we did a few years ago.  They deliver internal releases every month but only deliver one release to the customer every six months.  Every internal release is broken into features / stories of about 30 to 50 hours – again similar to what we do.  They also make heavy use of inspections or code reviews as we do at BrightWork.  They also find inspections very expensive time wise when they are being done – but very valuable in terms of finding bugs early.  They have a “qualify feature” in their development – where they:

  • install the new build
  • execute all developed tests
  • re-do regression tests
  • do exploratory testing
  • fix all found defects
    • then they “close” the feature

They have a nightly build against which they run a set of automated tests.  This build only includes all “qualified features” also called the “integration build”.  They do a serious amount of sensible testing – and this was very impressive!  We do not have this level of sophistication yet – but Paula was impressed with the new Test Automation coming in Visual Studio Team Foundation 2010.  They do run through System Testing (not always advocated by some agile folks) – as we do.  For us it is also very important.  Then after System Test they do Customer Acceptance Test.  As a product company we could be more formal about having a customer acceptance test phase – maybe while we build the language kits we have some customers formally accept the English kit on behalf of their fellow  customers?  They do have a testing competition from time to time – where they have teams compete with each other – a bug hunt – they ring a bell when a bug is found and a judge comes to see if it is really a bug!  Prizes and more importantly team pride is on the line!

The results from Gitte’s company:

  • a 42% reduction in late stage testing.
  • some customers would still prefer waterfall where they could sign a spec on Day 1 and collect the software on Day n!
  • way more testing than before
  • smaller projects the developers have to do the testing
  • testers and developers integrated as “one team”
  • configuration management is so critical
  • they keep seeking improvements

With so much “agile process” Gitte’s company developed their own manifesto for the future of their process framework to to keep themselves honest:

  • people over processes
  • simplicity over completeness
  • training over education
  • experience over theory
  • usability over uniformity

I enjoyed the talk!  I only got to a few talks this year – shame on me – but this was definitely the best talk for me.

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