The view from the business owner
Project Santa is an ambitious internal project that incorporates the use of various SAP technologies in order to drive business change. The timescales are pretty tight so we decided to deliver this using agile methodology and blog the process. Check out the Week 1 and Week 2 blogs.
We’re now four weeks into the project and the last two weeks have been full on development. As the business owner I was shown a mock-up of what the solution will look like. After signing this off, all focus turned to building it. We have two concurrent sprints running at the moment, one for mobile and one for the main IP solution and these are due to finish on Tuesday 21st Dec.
Often during a project, especially in the midst of development, the business owner is only really involved in update meetings and generally has very little visibility of the actual work that is taking. So how is that different with our agile approach? And do I feel confident that we’re going to meet the deadlines and deliver a solution that is fit for purpose?
The beauty of agile methodology is how some of the tools and processes used gives a very clear picture of progress made enabling you to determine whether or not the project will finish on time. They also allow blockers to be identified and addressed or help establish whether we need to a) bring extra resource in or b) de-scope parts of the solution. Some examples from my experiences throughout this project include...
The burndown chart
This is a graphical representation of work left to do versus time. The outstanding work (or backlog) is often on the vertical axis, with time along the horizontal. I think it’s a great tool as it predicts when the work will be completed and more importantly, highlights when there isn’t enough time to complete certain tasks!
We could see at the start of last week that we were ahead on some of the mobile work but behind on some of the ABAP so were able to re-jig the resources and use some off-shore resource accordingly. Therefore some work was packaged up and sent off shore the following day rather than waiting until closer to the deadline. Have a look at the example below to see the current position of our burndown chart.
The daily scrum
This is a stand-up meeting for a maximum of fifteen minutes which takes place first thing in the morning. There are only three questions for each member of the project team...
What did you do yesterday?
What will you do today?
Is there anything preventing you from doing what you need to do?
This keeps the meeting short and to the point. Ours have ranged from 10 - 20 minutes but no more. I've been to as many of these as possible including even if I’ve had to call in because I’ve been away from the office. This has ensured I'm up to date on the process and allows me to answer any quick questions in a timely manner.
Overcoming blockers as quickly as possible
We had one last week where part of the system wasn't working due to the attempted upgrade. The agile methodology really helped us in this case as it was flagged up in Monday’s scrum meeting as a major issue. When it hadn’t been fixed by Tuesday it was escalated as a key blocker and the right people were involved in solving it. Unfortunately this meant getting our Head of Technology, John Appleby, out of bed at 6am whilst he was in California at the SAP Influencer Summit. But at least it meant it was resolved in a couple of days. On a traditional waterfall project, issues like this can sometimes take weeks to fix and significantly impact time scales when the key people aren’t involved thoroughly.
These have taken place over the past week and there will be another one at the start of next week to ensure that what we’re building is absolutely able to meet business needs. The workshops have involved other people across the business aside from myself and have included as many stakeholders as possible. Do to other commitments I missed the major playback on Thursday so couldn’t define any decisions. However I'm reliably informed that it was a positive session however which is great news.
So is everything going smoothly then? Well that's never the case on any project is it? At times the project team has found it pretty tough going – at one stage last week Project Santa became Project Satan/ But I’m confident some more Christmas spirit will return this week! We’re also still waiting for the BW 7.3 system. Unfortunately when SAP released NetWeaver 7.3, they didn’t release all the supporting files that were required in order to perform an upgrade. Each time we realised a file was missing we had to go back to SAP so they could release it. We had a number of iterations of going back to SAP, waiting for them to release something to us, only to hit another problem 5 minutes later. The ensuing delay that this caused meant that we had to delay our upgrade, in order to avoid the project team having any more downtime.
Looking ahead it's testing over the next few weeks with a bit of Christmas cheer in between and I’m really looking forward to seeing the solution coming together and hanging together.