Becoming Nimble the Agile Project Management Way

In dictionary terms, ?agile? means ?able to move quickly and easily?. In project management terms, the definition is ?project management characterized by division of tasks into short work phases called ?sprints?, with frequent reassessments and adaptation of plans?. This technique is popular in software development but is also useful when rolling out other projects.

Managing the Seven Agile Development Phases

  • Stage 1: Vision. Define the software product in terms of how it will support the company vision and strategy, and what value it will provide the user. Customer satisfaction is of paramount value including accommodating user requirement changes.
  • Stage 2: Product Roadmap. Appoint a product owner responsible for liaising with the customer, business stakeholders and the development team. Task the owner with writing a high-level product description, creating a loose time frame and estimating effort for each phase.
  • Stage 3: Release Plan. Agile always looks ahead towards the benefits that will flow. Once agreed, the Product Road-map becomes the target deadline for delivery. With Vision, Road Map and Release Plan in place the next stage is to divide the project into manageable chunks, which may be parallel or serial.
  • Stage 4: Sprint Plans. Manage each of these phases as individual ?sprints?, with emphasis on speed and meeting targets. Before the development team starts working, make sure it agrees a common goal, identifies requirements and lists the tasks it will perform.
  • Stage 5: Daily Meetings. Meet with the development team each morning for a 15-minute review. Discuss what happened yesterday, identify and celebrate progress, and find a way to resolve or work around roadblocks. The goal is to get to alpha phase quickly. Nice-to-haves can be part of subsequent upgrades.
  • Stage 6: Sprint Review. When the phase of the project is complete, facilitate a sprint review with the team to confirm this. Invite the customer, business stakeholders and development team to a presentation where you demonstrate the project/ project phase that is implemented.
  • Stage 7: Sprint Retrospective. Call the team together again (the next day if possible) for a project review to discuss lessons learned. Focus on achievements and how to do even better next time. Document and implement process changes.

The Seven Agile Development Phases ? Conclusions and Thoughts

The Agile method is an excellent way of motivating project teams, achieving goals and building result-based communities. It is however, not a static system. The product owner must conduct regular, separate reviews with the customer too.

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What is Business Intelligence?

How well do you know your customers? That is, can you actually pinpoint which among them are you most profitable with and which are making you spend more? Are you content with the accuracy of your forecasts and market predictions? Do you feel you’re spending more on legal costs and regulatory compliance than you should?

Your IT department may be handling these concerns pretty well but perhaps you’d like to know how you can further improve things.

What we’ve got is an IT solution wrapped in a fancy name called ‘Business Intelligence’ or BI. If you think that’s too strong a term, we invite you to read more below, then you be the judge.

Dashboards – Determine the health of your business at a glance

Most drivers rarely make use of their car’s dashboard. After all, you can still reach your destination by just using the steering wheel, pedals, gear stick and so on. But that’s not exactly the most efficient way to drive, right?

If you want to save on fuel, you’ll want to glance on the RPM and speedometer from time to time. You might also want to utilise the trip meter to determine which route is the shortest to a given destination. Other dashboard components like the fuel gauge, tire pressure gauge, engine temperature indicator, and volt meter can likewise provide information about your car’s health.

The same concept applies to business management. If you want to run your business intelligently, you can make use of BI dashboards. These are tools in a typical business intelligence package that will allow you to determine the health of your business via a set of smartly configured gauges and other intuitive graphical representations.

So that, literally, at a mere glance, you’ll already know whether various units in your company are working efficiently. A dashboard will also give you instant feedback of the strategies you’ve recently implemented; to let you know if things are working as planned.

If you want more information than a dashboard can provide, our BI packages also include highly customised reports.

Reports that help you decide faster

Dashboards are great for getting valuable information at a glance but they won’t tell you everything. For more details, you’ll need to view highly customised reports. Our reports are tailor made for each user. We see to it that, by default, each person gets the information he needs the most.

If you belong to the sales department, you normally won’t need a presentation of the data that is appropriate for people in accounting. That way, you don’t spend time filtering. Instead, you and your people can move on to making well-informed decisions.

Our BI systems make use of your vast collection of data to provide reports that will organise your regulatory requirements and call your attention to approaching deadlines. The same system will provide the right information for your people on the field. If your team members are equipped with smart phones and Pocket PCs, they can retrieve whatever it is they need to know to close deals, make sales, and serve clients faster than the competition.

Generating logical information from disparate sources of data scattered over an enterprise-wide organisation is no easy task. But we’ll make it look simple. That’s because we’ve got the expertise to bring it all together into a robust data warehouse and to extract them in the form of reports and dashboards through OLAP.

OLAP and Data Warehousing – Powering the generation of actionable information

Want to know how to generate reports with the highest degree of accuracy and reliability? In theory, what you need is a single repository or a data warehouse. That is, order receipts, sales invoices, as well as customer & supplier data is integrated with regulatory details, personnel data, and others. These are all specially organised for future reporting and analysis.

However, data, no matter how all-embracing, is useless until it is processed into actionable information. Through OLAP or Online Analytical Processing, you can seamlessly collect all relevant data from your vast repository to answer queries like “What is our company’s profitability for the 2nd quarter in all identified key cities for our top-of-the-line products?”.

The strength of OLAP lies in its inherent ability to perform data analysis and very complex calculations, thus enabling it to return complex queries much faster than other database technologies. It is therefore suitable for very large data sources, i.e., data warehouses.

Dashboards and reports will only give your organisation the edge if the information retrieved is reliable, fast, and accurate – exactly the kind OLAP is so good at.

Mobile BI – Step back and see the big picture anytime, anywhere

Spreadsheets are great for displaying detailed information. However, in today’s highly competitive market, retrieving information that matters the most in the shortest possible time is vital in maintaining a sizeable lead over the competition. To step back and see the big picture, you’ll need insightful tools like dashboards and automatically generated reports.

Reports can be beamed to mobile devices such as smart phones and Pocket PCs. They can also be viewed on eBook readers as well. You can also do the same tasks with spreadsheets. But imagine how you’d need to scroll over a large spreadsheet on any of these mobile devices just to know which customer in your current location has performed well over the last month.

If you really want to make quick, well-informed decisions, BI dashboards for mobile devices is the way to go. You can make use of various business objects such as drill-able charts, performance metrics, and metric trend graphs to make crucial decisions even when on you’re in the field.

How DevOps oils the Value Chain

DevOps ? a clipped compound of development and operations – is a way of working whereby software developers are in a team with project beneficiaries. A client centred approach extends the project plan to include the life cycle of the product or service, for which the software is developed.

We can then no longer speak of a software project for say Joe?s Accounting App. The software has no intrinsic value of its own. It follows that the software engineers are building an accounting app product. This is a small, crucially important distinction, because they are no longer in a silo with different business interests.

To take the analogy further, the developers are no longer contractors possibly trying to stretch out the process. They are members of Joe?s accounting company, and they are just as keen to get to market fast as Joe is to start earning income. DevOps uses this synergy to achieve the overarching business goal.

A Brief Introduction to OpsDev

You can skip this section if you already read this article. If not then you need to know that DevOps is a culture, not a working method. The three ?members? are the software developers, the beneficiaries, and a quality control mechanism. The developers break their task into smaller chunks instead of releasing the code to quality control as a single batch. As a result, the review process happens contiguously along these simplified lines.

CodeQCTest???
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Colour KeyDevelopersQuality ControlBeneficiary

This is a marked improvement over the previously cumbersome method below.

Write the Code?Test the Code?Use the Code
?Evaluate, Schedule for Next Review?

Working quickly and releasing smaller amounts of code means the OpsDev team learns quickly from mistakes, and should come to product release ahead of any competitor using the older, more linear method. The shared method of working releases huge resources in terms of user experience and in-line QC practices. Instead of being in a silo working on its own, development finds it has a richer brief and more support from being ?on the same side of the organisation?.

The Key Role that Application Program Interfaces Play

Application Program Interfaces, or API?s for short, are building blocks for software applications. Using proprietary software-bridges speeds this process up. A good example would be the PayPal applications that we find on so many websites today. API?s are not just for commercial sites, and they can reduce costs and improve efficiency considerably.

The following diagram courtesy of TIBCO illustrates how second-party applications integrate with PayPal architecture via an API fa?ade.

Working quickly and releasing smaller amounts of code means the OpsDev team learns quickly from mistakes, and should come to product release ahead of any competitor using the older, more linear method. The shared method of working releases huge resources in terms of user experience and in-line QC practices. Instead of being in a silo working on its own, development finds it has a richer brief and more support from being ?on the same side of the organisation?.

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The DevOps Revolution Continues ?

We close with some important insights from an interview with Jim Stoneham. He was general manager of the Yahoo Communities business unit, at the time Flickr became a part. ?Flickr was a codebase,? Jim recalls, ?that evolved to operate at high scale over 7 years – and continuing to scale while adding and refining features was no small challenge. During this transition, it was a huge advantage that there was such an integrated dev and ops team?

The ?maturity model? as engineers refer to DevOps status currently, enables developers to learn faster, and deploy upgrades ahead of their competitors. This means the client reaches and exceeds break-even sooner. DevOps lubricates the value chain so companies add value to a product faster. One reason it worked so well with Flickr, was the immense trust between Dev and Ops, and that is a lesson we should learn.

?We transformed from a team of employees to a team of owners. When you move at that speed, and are looking at the numbers and the results daily, your investment level radically changes. This just can’t happen in teams that release quarterly, and it’s difficult even with monthly cycles.? (Jim Stoneham)

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Big Energy Data Management

Recent times have seen the advent of cloud based services and solutions where energy data is being stored in the cloud and being accessed from anywhere, anytime through remote mobile devices. This has been made possible by web-based systems that can usually bring real-time meter-data into clear view allowing for proactive business and facility management decisions. Some web based systems may even support multi utility metering points and come in handy for businesses operating multiple sites.

Whereas all this has been made possible by increased use of smart devices/ intelligent energy devices that capture data at more regular intervals; the challenge facing businesses is how to transform the large data/big volume of data into insights and action plans that would translate into increased performance in terms of increased energy efficiency or power reliability.

A solution to this dilemma facing businesses that do not know how to process big energy data, may lie in energy management software. Energy management software?s have the capability to analyse energy consumption for, electricity, gas, water, heat, renewables and oil. They enable users to track consumption for different sources so that consumers are able to identify areas of inefficiency and where they can reduce energy consumption, Energy software also helps in analytics and reporting. The analytics and reporting features that come with energy software are usually able to:

? Generate charts and graphs ? some software?s give you an option to select from different graphs

? Do graphical comparisons e.g. generate graphs of the seasonal average for the same season and day type

? Generate reports that are highly customisable

While choosing from the wide range of software available, it is important for businesses to consider software that has the capacity to support their data volume, software that can support the frequency with which their data is captured and support the data accuracy or reliability.

Energy software alone may not make the magic happen. Businesses may need to invest in trained human resources in order to realise the best value from their big energy data. Experts in energy management would then apply human expertise to leverage the data and analyse it with proficiency to make it meaningful to one?s business.

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