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Agile Systems Development (Part 3) – What is Agile?

Agile teaser graphic.jpgIn Part 2 of the series, we explored why Agile Systems Development matters to everyone involved. This installment delves into more detail and introduces the working definition of Agile at HP.


Beyond Values and Principles

The first definition of Agile Software Development, as captured in the Agile Manifesto, put forward a system of Values and Principles. This is very useful in that creates a common foundation that practitioners can agree upon, even if they differ with respect to specific techniques, practices, or ways of structuring the flow of work.


At HP, we provide applications development and maintenance services across the globe for many hundreds of clients, with thousands of teams. We also create various kinds of products and systems that include vast amounts of software. Our broad interests and scale give us excellent opportunities to become very good at developing and maintaining high levels of expertise and professional mastery. In order to achieve this consistently, we need to invest in ongoing education programs.

Since HP has to operate in such a broad context, the Agile Manifesto definition is insufficient as an education framework that would prove effective as a guide for the development of professional mastery in the practice of Agile Systems Development.


A System of Habits

To overcome this limitation, HP has created a system of 24 elements, grouped into four topic categories. Most of these elements should be considered as habits to learn, practice and then perfect over time. This system draws inspiration from diverse origins, such as Scrum, eXtreme Programming, Kanban, Systems Thinking, Queuing Theory, the Theory of Constraints, Lean Six Sigma, Enterprise Architecture, and other similar sources. We also invest in regularly improving this definition as we learn more through practice and experimentation.


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The elements of this system serve as a source of inspiration rather than as a fixed roadmap. Each organization and team may choose its own path and sequence of steps to improvement, focusing on a range of elements or habits to practice and perfect at any one time. Over time, Agile organizations will develop mastery in all these habits. However, the sequence in which they develop their skills will be unique to their specific context.  Here’s a brief review of the four topic categories.


Product Management

The habits in this category focus on teaching teams how to structure and adjust the flow of their work. They provide elements to combine into an optimum product development process.


For example, when the rhythm of execution and scalability matter, consider the Scrum framework. When you are striving to make work visible and improve the flow of work, consider using a Kanban system.


Practices like Daily Stand-ups, use of a Product Backlog, Short Sprints, Retrospectives, and use of Burn-down and Running-Tested-Feature charts are individual elements of the Scrum framework that teams may experiment with gradually, until they develop a fluid, effective and efficient flow of work.


Software Engineering

The habits in this category aim to create a solid engineering foundation. They ensure that the specification, design, development and validation of each system component are performed in a smooth flow, with economy of effort and achieve a consistently high level of quality every time.


The Story Cards concept helps teams to approach requirements management from the perspective of interactions that create user value. Test-Driven Development and Acceptance Test-Driven Development (often blended into an approach called Behavior-Driven Development) sustain high system quality and maintainability, and streamline requirements management and validation practices.


Pair programming increases productivity, raises system quality, contributes to rapid skill development, and improves flow by gradually diminishing skill bottlenecks.


Autonomation is the habit of intelligent automation, with a human touch. It promotes the development of a healthy balance between automation and manual activities, minimizing overall waste. Continuous Integration is a complementary habit that ensures the code base is maintained in a working state at all times (no “broken” code is accepted into the code repository). The system gets built frequently, so that any compilation and integration defects can be detected as early as possible, reducing the cost of quality.


The practices of managing Technical Debt and refactoring code ensure that the system structure is indefinitely kept simple and understandable. For example, when shortcuts are taken in order to expedite the delivery of a particular component, time must subsequently be set aside to replace the sub-optimal code with simpler, better engineered alternatives. Teams that neglect this discipline will see their velocity gradually decline, as the cost of quality increases.


The Incremental Deployment habit ensures that sets of valuable features reach the user community at the earliest possible time, keeping the inventory of unfinished assets to a minimum.


Team & Roles

The habits in this category focus on the human, organizational development and architecturally significant factors that influence systems development.


The Whole Team habit promotes cross-functional team composition, and encourages the inclusion of business domain specialists into the Team. The Self-organizing Team habit improves capacity utilization, reducing skill bottlenecks and delays, and streamlining the flow of work.


The Product Management habit refers to the discipline of managing systems development more like a product development flow rather than a project management exercise. Projects are finite endeavors, set up to achieve a given objective. Products, on the other hand, may be unbounded in time, their life governed primarily by economic relevance. By practicing Product Management, systems development organizations place more emphasis on consistent delivery of customer value over time.


The habit of using a Product Owner (a central element of the Scrum framework) provides an effective means of ensuring that the systems under development maximize customer value in the shortest possible time-frames, with optimum use of available resources (people, time and budget).


The System Architecture habit is increasingly vital in more complex environments. It ensures that architecturally significant concerns are dealt with effectively by the systems development organization. For example, this habit includes the techniques and pattern languages of Agile Modeling and Domain Driven Design, which provide excellent guidance on cost-effective systems development.


Management Practices

The habits in this category focus on the management aspects of the systems development process.


The Standard Work habit refers to the practice of visualizing the flow of work and explicitly articulating each Team’s best practices for specific techniques or work practices. The existence of Standard Work does not imply that there is a universally accepted “best” or fixed way of achieving something. Instead, the Standard Work representations are expected to be updated frequently, based on the results of improvement experiments.


The Measurement System habit promotes the practice of measuring the value delivered by each system feature included in each incremental deployment. A robust measurement system may derive such value assessments based on specific system usage patterns. While perfecting this habit, teams may also include various aspects of Value Engineering.


Use of Practitioner Coaches is an excellent means of accelerating the pace of organizational improvement. In sports we wouldn’t dream of professional teams showing up for a match without training under the watchful eye of an experienced coach. Agile organizations recognize this wisdom, and invest in coaching teams in order to develop peak performance.


The Visual Management System habit promotes visibility of the work items as they progress through the work process, and encourages teams to use various information radiators.


The Go See (Gemba Walks) habit helps executives and managers to develop a deep understanding of the challenges and issues faced by the teams doing the actual work that creates value for customers.


The Continuous Improvement (Kaizen Events) habit supports continuous improvement by enabling Teams to achieve breakthroughs by identifying, analyzing and addressing the root causes of key impediments and improving the system through focused countermeasures.


Agile Transformation is Fractal

I’d like to emphasize that these Agile habits are not just applicable to individuals or small teams. Increasing numbers of businesses (both well-established and fresh start-ups) are learning how to gradually become truly sustainable, and get better prepared to thrive through market disruptions. In such organizations, continuous improvement becomes the normal way of life in all areas and across all levels of scale.


Consider fractals. These mathematical constructs have the unusual property of displaying roughly the same shape when visualized at different levels of scale. Just as numerous natural phenomena have fractal features, the patterns of habits practiced in Agile organizations are very similar across all levels of scale, and in all areas of work.  Put another way, it is insufficient to just pursue agility at an individual level. If I personally subscribe to the values of the Agile Manifesto and align with the principles behind it, but my teammates don’t, then our Team won’t manage to master agility.


It is also insufficient to pursue agility just at a team level. If my team has made a shared commitment to continuous improvement and we’re actively investing in perfecting our way of work, but other stakeholders insist on using a fixed mindset and associated stagnant practices, then our improvement efforts will gradually grind to a halt. We will be forced to live with various sources of waste that could have been otherwise eliminated.


However, once an organization embraces agility throughout its operations and at all levels of scale, it can confidently develop true sustainability through steady investment in continuous improvement. As we’ve discussed in Part 2 of this blog series, such organizations actively seek to perfect their ways of work in the pursuit of customer delight, while providing for joy in work for people.


The story so far

In this installment, we’ve introduced the working definition of Agile at HP, which expands upon the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto through a system of 24 habits. This system is a useful working definition, and it’s subject to continuous improvement as we learn more over time.


In Part 4, we’ll examine how to take advantage of the Agile mindset to successfully launch your organization on a path of continuous improvement - and then keep it advancing steadily on that journey.


Other blogs in this series: 


Related links: 


About the Author


Horia Slușanschi, Agile Coach, Hewlett Packard Company

Horia serves as the leader of the HP Agile Mentoring Office and the HP Software Engineering Profession. He is passionate about helping professionals to perfect their practice of effective habits inspired by the Agile mindset. He is trained as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt practitioner, and holds a PhD in Computer Science. Horia also serves as the Service Delivery leader of the Project Management Institute’s Agile Community of Practice. Reach him at or @KiwiHoria.

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About the Author
Horia Slușanschi serves as an Agile Coach leading the HP Agile Mentoring Office and the HP Software Engineering Profession. He is passionate...
About the Author(s)
  • Business Development leader for HP’s Testing Practice in Americas and TaaS Global Capability Leader
  • Anthony works in the ES Apps Enterprise APJ . He is a self-motivated and well-disposed individual. He is a certified SAP FICO consultant. He has over twenty years industry experience in business transformation and Information Technology consulting (SAP). With excellent, interpersonal and communication skills, Anthony is able to influence and motivate at all levels. An empathic team player, He derives fulfilment in contributing towards others' development. Anthony possesses good analytical and problem-solving skills. He is a quick thinker, remains calm under pressure, handles multiple tasks, and accomplishes objectives with excellent time management. He is flexible and accustomed to meeting high standards and deadlines. Anthony possesses practical knowledge of business processes and concepts and has a keen eye for detail. He is aware of the importance of an effective system and quality management.
  • Bryan Coapstick is the Director of Mobile Innovation at HP. In this role, he is responsible for driving strategic mobility initiatives and key industry partnerships to enable clients the ability to leverage the mobile channel to effectively reach their customers. Bryan’s expertise lies with several Fortune 200 companies in both public and private sectors that focus on business technology and emerging strategies. Bryan demonstrates innovative leadership though public speaking, panel discussions and blogging on the various ways mobility is changing our daily lives.
  • Benjamin Romberg has over twenty five years experience in the IT industry, the last twelve of which have been as a testing professional. He has experience as a test analyst, performance tester, automation specialist, test lead, test manager, test consultant and test executive. He has worked on all types of testing engagements ranging from small web based applications through to core system upgrades. Benjamin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Genetics, a Post Graduate Degree in Software Engineering and an Executive Masters in Business Administration. Benjamin now leads HP’s Testing and Quality Assurance Practice in Asia Pacific and Japan.
  • Over the past 5 years, I have participated in the different stages of delivering Microsoft Enterprise Applications to customers as large as 40.000 concurrent users across Europe with a focus on the public and call center sector. During this period, I worked in numerous technical (lead) and business consultant roles. Using this experience, I am currently a certified Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 expert which specializes in guiding enterprise customers and implementation teams through the process of implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.
  • Craig has been with HP for 10 years working on the solutioning side as a Solution Architect. Primarily works with Microsoft technologies and has for the better part of 16 years. This past year Craig has worked mostly with Windows AZURE and the mobility side of Windows Phone 7/8 and Android.
  • Master Business Consultant and Distinguished SE with 35+ years of IT experience, specializing in SOA and Integration.
  • Daniel Amor (EMEA, AMOD, Cloud, Portals, Web Apps and SOA domain expert): Daniel has designed, won, led and delivered large-scale, complex applications-related projects by acting as a trusted advisor to clients. Daniel conducts regular training and client-facing sessions, and he has authored six books and numerous articles in European and US-based magazines and newspapers on IT change. He is a regular lecturer and he speaks on Portals, E-Business and Cloud.
  • Global HP Microsoft Business Applications Practice. Microsoft Dynamics CRM subject matter expert. Based in Manchester, United Kingdom. @DarrenCRM on Twitter
  • Solutions Architect working at HP since 2002 with focus on Applications Modernization, located at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Managing Consulting specialising in Business Transformation and Value Management for Defence, Healthcare, Public Sector, Criminal Justice and Telecommunications.
  • Guido Arndt is since May 1997 business consultant and project manager @ Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services. Main focus is strategic and organizational alignment of logistics, sales and production processes in the automotive and manufacturing industry as well as business performance projects in finance and telecommunication industry. Guido has experience as change agent and transformation manager in people-driven merger & aquisition projects focusing government, consulting firms, manufacturing plants and consumer brands.
  • Horia Slușanschi serves as an Agile Coach leading the HP Agile Mentoring Office and the HP Software Engineering Profession. He is passionate about helping teams and leaders to find joy in work in the pursuit of customer delight.
  • CISSP, Open CA Master Architect Technical Consultant with 28+ years of IT experience specializing in Application Security, Solution Architecture, Portals, Social Business, and Integration
  • Jim has been with HP for 33 years and currently leads a global Strategic Capabilities Management team, with a specific focus on Business Analysis and Configuration Management. Jim also manages a team within the US State, Local, and Education division of HP. He was a member of the IIBA committee that created a Business Analyst Competency Model and he participated in the development of IEEE standards. Jim graduated from Harvard University, the University of British Columbia, and Ottawa Theological Hall. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada.
  • SAP Technologist from APPS GD SAP Practice - Manila covering SAP NetWeaver EP, SAP Mobility and general SAP solutions.
  • WW product marketing manager for HP Applications Modernization and Transformation Consulting Services. 35+ years of IT technology and services experience.
  • Laurence has over 35 years experience in the IT industry and has spent 27 years delivering knowledge management (and before that became fashionable, Artificial Intelligence and knowledge-based systems) transformation projects to clients in Government, Industry, Manufacturing and Telecomms industries. He has developed and implemented knowledge management (KM) strategies for HP's clients and for business areas in HP (for BPO and for our Consulting business) and believes that KM strategy is essential for an effective KM practice.
  • . . Service Systems . .
  • Lori Lewis leads Global Digital and Integrated Marketing for the Applications and Business Services division in HP’s Enterprise Services. The organization is focused on providing clients with enterprise applications services and solutions to solve some of their most pressing business problems. For over 2 decades, she has championed innovative communication approaches to drive and grow market share and build motivated, empowered teams. She is a compelling, passionate ambassador of the art and science of marketing and the amazing results it can achieve when done with integrity and passion. Ms. Lewis’ credentials, track record, and enthusiasm are essential ingredients her team relies on as they work together to establish HP as the undisputed leader in information management and analytics services.
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution architect, C# developer, MBA, husband, father, Auburn man. Follow me on Twitter @lucas_is.
  • CRM enthusiast, avid techie
  • More than 10 years of experience in developing effective and innovative marketing and communication strategies. Recently I have studied the effects of social media and disruptive technology on business, marketing, and culture. Follow me on Twitter: @micaelaraimondi
  • Agile Champion and coach. Passion in software development using lean and agile techniques. Software is a people business!!
  • Have 11 years of experience in SAP Consulting, Solutioning and Account management.
  • I have over 20 years of I.T. experience predominantely in applications development. In addition to my I.T. experience I spent 7 years as the Director of Store Services at Canada's third largest grocery retailer.
  • Shafraz Nasser is the Lead Microsoft CRM Architect with HP Enterprise Services in the South Pacific Microsoft Dynamics Practice. His focus is on selling, architecting and overseeing delivery of Microsoft Dynamics CRM based implementations within New Zealand.
  • Shefali Dua is leading Worldwide BPaaS Strategy & Solution Innovation team at HP Enterprise Services as the Solution Innovation Manager. Her focus is currently assisting in planning and delivery of industry solutions for verticals like social media, big data, mobility and security on the HP Enterprise Cloud offerings for CRM Technologies.
  • Steve Petruno is a Product Manager for HP’s Global Oracle Services with over 24 years experience in the Information Technology industry, project Management, Human Resources, Payroll and Benefits, ERP implementations, upgrades, acquisitions and divestitures.
  • I have worked for HP as a business consultant for seven years, providing process, strategy and business transformation advice in the Financial Services and UK Government sectors. As part of this I have used Lean and Continuous Improvement techniques to assess and improve business performance, ensure regulatory compliance and improve environmental sustainability.
  • Tom is the Global Product Marketing lead for HP's Cloud Applications Services. Tom has over 20 years of experience in information technology and a proven track record for implementing innovative client solutions in several industries including government, healthcare, and telecommunications. He thrives on developing services and solutions which result in business process improvement through greater systems efficiency.
  • Vijay Seetharaman is an Enterprise Architect within HP Enterprise Services - Industry Transformation Consulting practice, focusing on Cloud and Mobility

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