White Papers

Whitepaper: Achieving Agile Engineering Excellence Through Continuous Improvement

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

This is part of a series of abridged white papers intended as quick reference sources for busy managers interested in the subject matter and faced with limited time to absorb lengthy research documentation.

It is based on research undertaken by Plandek drawn from anonymised data observed across a range of clients – from small start ups to large corporates with large scale, distributed Agile teams.

Purpose of this paper

At Plandek we get the opportunity to work with a great variety of Agile engineering teams – from very large, distributed enterprises - to compact start-ups.  

During our work, we have observed two hard facts:

• All these Agile teams are on a journey towards “Agile engineering excellence” (which means different things to different people)
• All struggle to balance the pressures of the “day job” (delivering features), with the need to manage and implement a structured and long term continuous improvement (CI) programme – so that they consistently get closer to the ultimate goal of “Agile engineering excellence”.

This short paper focuses on how you can implement a demonstrably effective CI programme even in the fastest moving and most resource constrained Agile environments – so that you deliver today and continue to improve at the same time.

Scope of the analysis and insight

This proprietary analysis is based on core Agile principles and experience of working with clients and analysing anonymised data, feedback and insight from Agile software development teams observed between September 2017 and December 2018.  

The Plandek team continually talk with and interview Agile development teams and their stakeholders whilst piloting and implementing the Plandek BI and Analytics platform.  The Plandek platform is a BI dashboard and analytics tool designed to help technology teams deliver Agile projects and programmes more productively and predictably.

The concept of Continuous Improvement – and why it’s so powerful

The concept of CI has been around for a long time and we are all no doubt pretty familiar with it.  It was first applied most successfully in a business context in Japan and became popularised with Masaaki Imai’s 1986 book “Kaizen: the Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.”  

The principle is very simple and very powerful, but surprisingly hard to deliver effectively.  In essence, successful CI requires five important things:  

1. A serious long term commitment and sponsorship from the leadership team – as CI requires effort and resource over a prolonged period of time
2. An agreed, objective set of metrics to track progress – making sure that these metrics are actually the right ones – i.e. the metrics that are deterministic of desired outcome
3. An initial diagnostic to clarify the current situation and the scope of the functions, processes, teams etc that are to be improved
4. A means of tracking these metrics and setting targets (with targets calibrated against internal and external benchmarks)
5. An embedded process to manage the CI programme to set targets regularly, cascade targets out; track progress; make necessary interventions; celebrate success and move on.

All the metrics discussed are easily viewable within the Plandek analytics platform. Plandek currently integrates with the Atlassian stack – the analysis is therefore focused around companies using Jira as their principle workflow management tool.

Read the complete whitepaper here

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