The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Agile development - is it right for you?

Barrier break through.pngThe other day I was talking with a team about Agile development adoption. One of the things they asked was “What’s different?” and "Is it right for us?" I sat down and jotted this list of thoughts that came to mind. No, my response isn’t the purist perspective covering all the elements of the agile manifesto, but some might find it useful:

 

Agile focus:

  • Small cycles with fast turnaround - iterative releases w/improved time to value

  • High-level of interaction with the end user/owner

  • Progress centric, where business value is measured by tested, demonstrable deliverables

  • Transparency

  • Fail early/fail often – “defects” are an opportunity for a future release

  • Priority focused, with quicker realization of business value

It requires:

  • Direct access by the agile team to business users

  • Executive sponsorship, support and expectations

  • Customer commitment/involvement – if the customer isn’t there, the work can’t get done.

  • Automated testing (you’ll be testing more often so plan to automate)

  • Projects started with the awareness and assumption that you don’t know everything about the end result

  • Define areas that cannot be compromised (e.g., security) that need to be baked in along the way

  • Agile readiness assessment before each new effort – all parties need to be ready

  • Organizational change management (there is behavior change of individuals, leaders, relationships)

  • Priority-driven development

What remains the same:

  • Scope (scope will change, but if it changes too much, it becomes a new project/sprint)

  • Requirements (still need to be documented and tested) although they are not there at the start

  • Leadership and project owners (they accept or reject results)

  • Amount of potential work to be done (there is always going to be more to do, focus on value)

  • Budgets – projects still need to live within financial constraints

  • Performance measurement (what and how you measure will be different).

  • Documentation (the documentation is richer, since it should be completed all along the way).

  • Architecture (everything still needs to work together)

  • Change control (prepare for continous change)

What needs to change:

  • Incentives, compensation for the members

  • Governance processes and approaches to release and acceptance

  • Interfaces to other groups (they need to be more flexible)

  • Coaches and agile experience (for the ‘customer’ as well as the developers)

  • Continuous engagement level of business users

  • A view to develop and implement what is needed, nothing more

Although Agile has been around for well over a decade, a solid foundation for discussion still needs to be agreed upon.

Component skills of future roles?

 

juggle.pngThe other day I focused on the changes for education and automation… But what about our expectations? There is a great deal of concern about the elimination of jobs. Is the foundation of that really based on our inability to embrace the super-human capabilities that will be enabled and how that will change the roles we play?

The same automation that eliminates jobs also gives us significantly more capabilities – skills where humans excel. No matter how much we automate, there will likely always be work opportunities where human skills will be valued – until Skynet takes over.

 

We can now cultivate a network that spans thousands where just a few decades ago our network of ‘friends’ would likely be measured in double digits. The value of our flexibility, intuition and relationships will likely continue to be valued.

 

What are the component skills of the jobs of the future? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Change management – Individuals that can help others embrace change and transition to new modes of operation. They will need to be experts at context transfer.

  2. Transcendental optimization – Those that can move beyond just simple tweaking (that can likely be automated) to breakthrough optimization approaches.

  3. Disassemblers – What you shut down can be as important as what you start. These skills will focus on how to shut down existing environments.

  4. Strategic futurists – Roles that focus on envisioning the future and can convey that to others effectively.

  5. Ethicists – Functions that focus on the ethical and legal use of technology.

  6. Unique recognition – Although most situations can be handled in a standard way, those that can recognize when something is unique or at a critical inflection point will be crucial.

  7. User interface design – Although there will be less user interfaces required, the need to share that information and focus attention to greatest effect will be critical.

  8. Evangelist – Every good idea needs to be marketed effectively to be embraced.

  9. Modeler – All models are wrong but some are useful. The ability to effectively abstract complexity out of systems is a critical skill.

  10. Juggler – Keeping a number of balls in the air will continue to be crucial.

  11. Fixers – Abstraction is what makes many types of technology useful to the common folk. Sometimes though it doesn’t work and extraordinary measures will be required. Those who can do this best, will always have a job.

These can be aggregated together into thousands of new functions. What do you think?

 

Contemplating trend intersections – HP’s global technical conference

Recently, a friend from ISSIP sent me an article from Forbes asking Can LED Advances Help Vertical Farms Take Root? I found it interesting because I grew up on a farm, but also because it is an example of the intersection of technical and business trends.

 

The abundance of capabilities in one space (LEDs) can address a scarcity in another space (arable land). An important part of strategic thinking going forward is looking for these relationships as they are today and for trends that will cause them to shift, as well as the organizational change management implications.

 

This week, I am participating in HP’s internal Global Technical Conference. I’ll be looking at the innovations from this scarcity and abundance perspective as well as  meta-drivers that impact innovation value generation.

2014 – a year of instability

crystalball.gif2014 will be a year of Instability for most organizations. For the optimists, it will be a year that many of the technologies that entered the business environment, shift to delivering significantly new levels of value. For the pessimist, it will be another year of unwanted change.

 

One of the changes organizations will embrace is the shift from a focus on service delivery (including cloud) as a commodity to a value play. This will move Service Level Agreement metrics from measuring commodity performance (like uptime) to more business-focused and quality measures.

 

Many of the service players will begin to offer solutions higher up the value stack and directly address business processes. SaaS vendors moving to BPO for example, causing them to take on whole new areas of responsibility.

 

The same kinds of shifts will happen within IT support organizations. Workplace services that are currently focused on supporting BYOD will need to embrace Bring Your Own Service – a more environmental view of what is needed to address the business needs of the day. The security and service broker functions will become even more critical for support organizations since much of the work will be provided by others.

 

In 2013, HP talked a lot about the new style of IT. In 2014, a new style of business that is more social, mobile, flexible, data driven, secure and automated will generate greater value levels and allow those who embrace the change to excel. For example, social will be a lever for greater engagement for employees and customers. Mobile will build upon that engagement capability and add in the element of speed, shifting the time to action for organizations. Analytics will move out of the glass house and take advantage of mobile to provide the visibility and efficiency needed and where possible automation will offload well understood tasks and assist in simplifying and eliminating distractions. The race with the machine will be the race to watch in 2014 -- this will be a year of widespread transformation. Defining criteria to evaluate an innovation and its implication will help organizations minimize instability.

 

In 2012 a wide variety of ubiquitous and wearable computing hit the ground (even more in 2013) but in 2014 these will hit the road and be incorporated into more business and personal processes. They will shift from being isolated devices to becoming linked networks of functionality. As the costs and power requirements go down, they will be embedded in more products (and produce, limiting spoilage -- as an example) optimizing results. This will also enable a more software-defined everything view of computers in products. The instabilities this shift implies will be readily apparent in 2014.

 

Another shift will be to a software defined anything approach. The concepts of OpenStack for Cloud OS and OpenFlow for software defined networking will start to permeate higher into the value stack with a more open ‘smarts’ approach to pattern recognition and process optimization during 2014. This more open approach will allow for standardization yet customization enabling new level of business flexibility and applicability. The personalization and custom development for 3D printing... will continue to move into the mainstream.

 

Software in 2014 will incorporate more flexible information sources and analytics, enabling greater levels of automation and systems of action. For the end user we’ll likely see a great deal of interface work and changes as HTML5 integrates more capabilities for voice, video… and organizations begin to capitalize upon these capabilities across devices. A wider variety of spatial (gesture), touch, voice and even mind control interfaces will be incorporated into enterprise software, moving out of the consumer space. Organizations will learn from how the consumer space adopts the functionality of the Xbox One into their interactions. We will move beyond a ‘mobile first’ view for development to mobile is 'the interface' and desktop is a special case – fortunately with HTML5 that should not be that big of an issue.

 

The software portfolio that has been built through the success of all the previous projects will need to be re-assessed in 2014 against these services and the revised needs of the business. Mobile interfaces will allow the enterprise to take advantage of the computer everyone has with them. This environmental perspective will enable the employees to become more engaged with the processes, customers and other employees, empowering them and enabling them to empower others.

 

Organizations will need to assess what is abundant in this world of 2014 and what will still be scarce for them. Those that recognize this distinction will have a significant advantage in planning and removing instability. Everyone can probably recognize that security, privacy and time (attention) will be scarce, but what else can be optimize and used differently to provide advantage.

 

Engaged and motivated employees will still be scarce. I think businesses will need to do more in-house orientation and development enabling a more predictable talent creation pipeline. Although a variety of education techniques can be applied to make this happen, the passive approach that came about during the .com era will no longer be accepted by the businesses or its employees and the new skills and change management required to shift the business will be recognized and addressed in 2014.

 

Organizations that can quickly adjust to the volatility around them will remain stable and in control. Most of the instability can be predicted, although there are some situations that will always surprise us. Being flexible and aware can make those situations turn into an opportunity.

Enterprise architecture now more than ever…

Reach.pngI saw this post by Tim DeGennaro about Enterprise Architecture in 2014 it made me think about a discussion I had with a large analyst firms Enterprise Architecture specialist. I mentioned to him that HP’s EAs are not focused on “selling” HP products. They are not part of central organization but instead tied directly to client organizations. Naturally, they have some interest in the product’s being used appropriately, but their main interest is in generating value for the company, within their business, meeting their goals.

 

During our discussion, we kept going back to this topic over and over. It was clear there was a contextual mismatch, since my view is that that there is no way an EA can push product off the back of the wagon and fulfill their role as a trusted advisor. His view was that HP is a product company and therefore the EA must sell product – even though I don’t think he agreed that perspective was best. It was just an assumption he made.

 

The EA needs to be focused on the long term value generation – and the analyst just couldn’t understand that this was our approach. HP Enterprise Services wants to have long-term strategic relationships with organizations (most of the EAs are in HP ES). We view that Enterprise Architecture is at the center of these relationships, whether it is based on infrastructure, applications maintenance and development or business process outsourcing, to truly generate strategic value an enterprise architecture is needed. Often HP personnel perform this function, sometimes the customer’s team carry the load - in any case, we see Enterprise Architecture as foundational to what we do.

 

Transformation journey.png

We look at enterprise transformation as a journey, starting with assessing the current state of IT and its alignment to and support for the business, along a path to a defined “new state”. A state based on the business goals of the organization, not on some product list.

 

One of the important functions of Enterprise Architecture is to communicate the destination as well as the steps and the governance needed along the way. This allows for fact-based expectations, discussions and actions -- reducing confusion and rework. Organizational change management and communication skills are crucial to make this happen.

 

Since the EA deliverables need to be business driven – enterprise architect should strive to always tie back initiatives to business direction and metrics. Sometimes we all can lose sight of why we are here and this traceability helps keep everyone grounded in the needs of the business.

 

Once I was working at a large food manufacturing organization interacting directly with their Chief Technology office. We’d get into deep, esoteric discussions and I’d ask the question “How does this make more cheese?” to focus us back on the business goals.

 

Even though it may seem simple, the connections between the enterprise architecture and business goals allow EA’s try and maintain a practical approach. The architectural work products and the architects themselves need to be used effectively to deliver solutions and not be ivory tower shelf ware.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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