Agile Methodology – The T20 of Software Development Life Cycle

Agile methodology is like T20 cricket match of recent days where the requirements keep changing every moment and you need to be on your toes to be successful (deliver something tangible).

Waterfall or V-model was more like a Test match where you had enough time to set yourself and decide on your strategy. But here in agile there is a concept of sprint hardening which means once the goal is set you need to try your best to achieve it. If I had to compare it to cricket, there is a very similar phenomenon in cricket whereby once the field is set the bowler has to pitch the bowl in the right area so that he can flick the wicket. If you dare to throw one or two loose balls then be ready to face the music and the match will go away from your hands like the desert sand slips through your fingers and you don’t even get to realize that it’s all over.

Today the world is changing towards fast pace, dynamism and increased agility. Clients have lost the patience to wait for 6 months or more to see something tangible coming out of the development work. Moreover when the client is not very clear about the requirement he likes to go for the agile methodology, where  he can get to see the result in 15 to 30 days of sprint and sense pretty early in the game that whether the development is on right track or not. Whether this is what he wanted and this is how the things should shape, if there is any aberration from his desired output he can change the course of action real early in the game rather than waiting till the late ends of the development. This will not only save money but also the effort and hard work put in by the developers.

As in T20 every over counts, each over has got its own strategy similarly in Agile every sprint counts and each sprint has got its own deliverables. It’s not necessary that the previous sprint would have any correlation with the kind of work being taken up in the present sprint. But when you combine all the sprint backlogs you will realize that the end result was very similar to what a team had expected at the end of the project, very similar to what a cricket team had expected at the end of the match. Each individual has to take the onus to deliver his best; he or she should very well understand that what is expected out of him or her during the sprint and if every individual puts in his best effort with all the commitment and honesty then the team as a whole can surely expect a win.

If we look it from an agile point of view then we can expect that at the end of the entire sprint we would surely be able to complete the whole product backlog much more effectively and conveniently.

Your captain in this game of agile is your scrum master along with the Business analyst and the technical leads playing the role of vice-captains. As the saying goes with great roles comes great responsibility, it’s in the hands of captain and the vice-captains to steer the deck in the direction of success, show the winning path to the team and work as a torch bearer.

What is at stake in this game of agile? If you see from the client’s point of view it’s his money which is riding high on the product but if you see from the eyes of the development team, it’s the pride and honor, the ownership, the onus to deliver the product as desired and on time. If the team fails to deliver then as in the game of cricket, you stand a chance to lose all the prize money and the confidence of thousands of expectators whose eyes are constantly watching your moves, which can be referred to the senior management in this case.

So set your backlog right and let your coding do the talking…Impossible is nothing… :)J

Little analogy of scrum with T2O cricket:

aglie-table

Now to some key questions: Who sets the target? What is the metrics used to evaluate the sprint?

Going back to the analogy, as we have runs in matches which work as metrics to calculate the efficiency of the team. The match total of a team decides the efficiency of the team under the given circumstances. Similarly the number of story points/Function points a team can deliver decides the efficiency of the agile development team. In a sprint each individual by his or her work contributes to the Story Point/Function Point of the total team.

The Estimation Process:

Total Project scope (Use Cases/Features) gives the project size in Function Points or Story Points as metrics chosen by the organization. This helps the team to decide the high level backlog with estimates for the team. The Function Point/Story Point estimation includes the total detail of the effort/Hours of hard work which will be required to complete the whole project. It also details out a tentative date of the complete delivery of the project (Forecasting/prediction).

Further details like number of resource required to achieve the task in the stipulated time are also calculated and resource planning can be done based on the Project planning and Estimates planning done for the project.

Hence the relation between Effort (in Hours) , Resources and Scope can be established.

aglie-table2

Project Lifecycle using Agile Methodology – IGT way :

Till now what an analogy of the delivery/Operations and estimates in agile has been derived. The IGT methodology is as below:

Picture1

IGT uses the agile framework which is an industry standard and uses an unique methodology.

IGT has developed an efficient and robust approach, which helps in time saving and delivering a defect free/ Risk free system. IGT’s concept of Quality gates provides a check at each stage of delivery making the system much more robust and defect free.

For more details on “Quality Gates”, Please get in  touch with IGT at mktg@igt.in

Contributed by: Rahul Singh, Sr. Business Analyst, InterGlobe Technologies

Business Value delivered from Social Media?

It suddenly seems to be the flavor of the day. Everyone is talking about how does “Social Media add value to my business”.

Social media has given customers a voice that they only dreamed of having a few years ago. Through the use of social channels, customers can communicate directly with the brands they do business with, anytime and anywhere. Social Media has always been an attractive avenue for travel brands. The prime reason is that travel is a very social experience both for purchase as well as an activity. People consult their friends for travel recommendations and seek their advice for places they should visit, airlines they should prefer and hotels they should stay. Moreover, people travel with their friends, make new friends during trips and travelling together (at least for holidays and leisure) is always considered more exciting than travelling alone. Travel brands are trying to bring this social experience online for people to get travel recommendations, share their travel experiences and help make their customers’ travel better.

I see the airline industry is all about forming communities. Many travelers are regulars, people who log countless hours in the skies for business or pleasure. No wonder, many travellers are continuously using the social web to discuss your airline. They could be tweeting from an airport with questions on flight delays, or maybe using Facebook to celebrate their great experiences with your in-flight crew. Airlines, on the other end are also using the social web to reach out to passengers to ensure that they’re having the best experience possible each and every time they take to the skies. This medium provides the opportunity to communicate with customers and prospects in novel ways. It helps airlines build engagement, drive frequent flier participation, and sell more tickets.

Also as increased security and spikes in fuel prices often turn flying from an excursion into what can seem like a necessary evil, airlines are increasingly harnessing social media to reach out and respond to customers. On the other hand, I have seen recent trends where growing number of travelers are using social media channels to voice their complaints about airlines. Passengers use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to share complaints about poor airline experiences. Airlines need to tap this opportunity to do a better job of gathering passenger feedback and closing the loop on customer interactions. Social media provides a direct and open line of communication from the airline straight to the customer with the ability to connect with them on a personal level, anywhere at any time.

I recently came across CAPA-SITA’s latest report on India Aviation which highlighted the fact that social networks are increasingly being used for communication with passengers. Airlines will see an increase in providing this capability from 23 percent to 76 percent by 2014, while airports will see a rise to 73 percent from the current 36 percent. An internal study conducted by IGT’s Social Media Center of Excellence also points out that by 2013, for every 100 calls to a contact center, there will be 96 conversations that need to be attended to using Social Media.

I think the time has come for the next generation of contact centers – the evolution from contact centers to Social Media hubs.

Business Processes to Business Value

The outsourcing model has undergone several changes over the past few decades. At the turn of every decade, with increasing complexity and competitiveness in the IT-BPO industry, outsourcing models have witnessed transformation in order to deliver value to clients. I recently spoke at the Global Services BPO Summit 2012 where I was asked to set the tone of the session ‘Business Transformation – Understanding the Next Generation Models’ along with BPO guru Mr. Raman Roy, Founder & CMD of Quatrro Global Services.

Some clear pointers that emerged from the discussions at the summit were opportunities in disruptive innovation, leveraging India’s ability to scale, exploring the potential of platform-based BPO and developing leadership talent. I believe transformation in the industry is driven by a number of needs: continuous product innovation reduced time to market and increased flexibility in service delivery. It is very important that you stay focused on customers, and on how their requirements and consumption patterns are changing. Clearly, technology is one of the key drivers for business transformation.

Today, technologies such as cloud computing, business analytics software, social media platforms and process automation software are being used within BPO’s to enable them to lower costs and be more effective. Effective technologies and architectures contribute to cost reductions and more efficient operations by streamlining the systems environment and reducing the number of systems involved, often standardising the technology environment on a unified, centralised platform.

According to a recent research by Nasscom, 80% of the incremental growth will have to be driven by new segments like SMEs, emerging geographies and vertical depth. This makes it necessary for businesses to transform their existing models to one in which they develop business functions with in depth capability and proprietary IP tools.

The customer of today desires applications that have near zero time to market and provides tangible business outcomes. This will likely change the BPO landscape and the business spends to be re-allocated to initiatives that help customer with concrete and tangible outcomes.

The watchword for the next generation in BPO is ‘business value’. Service providers have to deliver complex business outcomes that go beyond mere cost savings easily achieved through automation and process re-engineering.

Integrated IT BPO Services – Coming back stronger!

In my last post I spoke about the changing role of a CEO and how this shift in paradigm has sparked the spirit of innovation amongst young leaders. However, a recent discussion at a summit, made me understand the finner nuiances of this shift. Over the course of time, it is not just the change in leadership and innovation approach, but the way in which businesses are now being performed and executed.

As I discuss this with industry experts, I find my self nodding in agreement with the argument that companies are looking for vendors who can offer a stremlined and a simpler modus of operandi. They no more want to focus on complex solutions and multiple vendors, instead they wish to function under a much more transparent and simpler approach.They are asking for solutions that are complelling, manageable, quick and easy to understand. Solutions that not only integrate and weave togther the missing blocks, but also are able to bridge the existing gaps in an outsourcing relationship.  They have realised that integration is an important part of the overall business experience and I feel that combining  and integrating the two forms of services  (IT & BPO) will surely help organizations to stand out and achieve their goals.

The Last decade was all about  Pure Play BPOs and standalone IT vendors. While these BPOs grew from captives which were offering processing services to their parent companies , IT vendors follwed an organic growth strategy and created an separte arm for each of their operations.

Soon the  IT players entered into the BPO segment and their success was marked by their confidence to build upon their existing capabilities, the role that technology has to play in the industry, their understanding of different verticals and client needs and demands.

While nothing in the immediate future suggests that pure play BPOs will cease to exist, the truth is that unless they offer solutions that are more attractive and complete, rising margin pressures will make survival tough. With many IT companies on a look out to acquire BPO companies that can help them scale up and add to their offerings, a shakeout is inevitable.

Moreover, companies are now willing to leverage their synergies and hence are opting for consolidation of their outsourced services. What they have realized  is that this integration will not only help them to save cost, but will also increase overall acountabilty for its contribution to corporate profitability. Also, this integration will enable technology providers to eliminate  disconnects between  internal and external service providers.

For BPOs to meet this impending challenge the best way forward is to build on their existing capabilities and offerings and take on a few steps to not just improve delivery, but also add on to their service offerings, so that the client community is fast enough to recognise this value-addition.

The Emergence of Software Babus

Having been in the IT services industry for close to 2 decades now, there are some interesting trends that I have noticed consistently. Everywhere I look around, I see groups of extremely intelligent people all driven towards achieving process excellence in the IT fraternity. However, the focus always seems to be more on adhering  to the PROCESS that on driving INNOVATION or thinking out-of-the-box to challenge the normal. Over the past decade, as India has repeatedly impressed the world by its flawless delivery, we in the outsourcing arena have given rise to a generation of software babus. Our new age software babus, though highly educated and adept with technology, are focused mainly on adherence of policies & procedures that can lead to impeccable delivery, and tend to lose their focus on innovation & conceptualizing new ideas.

In the last 7-10 years, most people in IT services have condensed creativity because of the simple reason of  being “process followers”. While I believe that is a very important tenet for quality delivery, I feel that cannot be the driver for fostering growth in this industry. Seeing our counterparts in the West, there’s a plethora of companies that have focused on creativity, driven innovation continuously and have been extremely successful with sustained profits year-on-year. What makes them different?  I see them driving process excellence, but with the flexibility to squeze in out-of-the-box thinking, and therefore giving way to innovative products, creating new markets and staying future proof.

This is where I feel our software babus have to move towards to position India as a IT thought leader for the future. Talking of babus, the  word was originally used as a term of respect and later on it took on to represent somewhat bureaucratic/process centric nature of an individual.

I believe the same situation exists into the core of our IT business delivery – Well respected individuals in the society but becoming more and more process oriented and bureaucratic . This is perhaps the reason why India is still looked upon as a ‘stong implementor’ in both the outsourcing and the technology industry, and not a mentor for driving innovation and change.

Don’t take me wrong, I think it’s time we break the mould, identify and challenge the existing,  in order to devise a course for future success. And it can’t start with the business alone, it has to be engrained into our culture and that calls for a fundamental shift in lots of things – starting from our education system, the way we look at employment, rewards & recognition and a strong push from Industry bodies to propogate the change to the outside world. The vision should not only be Incredible India as a destination, but Innovative India as a value proposition for the world.

The Changing Role of the CEO

Today’s business world is full of shifting paradigms and as the market moves through the volatility, a new wave is surfacing – the wave for enhanced mobility, decisions based on social conversations and maximized analytics.

During my visit to the NASSCOM Leadership Forum 2011, I found myself nodding in agreement with the compelling argument that no matter where you look, this new wave of technology seems to hold the key to solving most of the significant problems being faced in businesses today. A boundaryless world is our future, with mobile application, cloud computing and Social media being the key threads binding it together. Everywhere I look around, I see more interactions becoming virtual. Its amazing to see the youth today spend more time on Facebook than on checking their emails or using traditional media.

During my interactions with the Gen Y in my office & other social circles, I realise that we need to understand that this generation does not respond to the same triggers as the ones preceding it. They are dramatically different.They are all about smart phones, socializing on the move, using applications to do a variety of tasks, far beyond the conventional usage of a phone for voice calls only.

While waiting at the airport lounge, I saw many such tech-savvy users SELF-SERVE varied aspects of their travel experience. The dynamic nature of the audience is encouraging service providers to think out-of-the-box to develop applications and solutions that’ll keep them engaged.

These new age technologies are gradually becoming a platform to personalize the travel experience based on the customer segment and business capabilities. GPS, Android, and Geo-location are all new and exciting apps that provide the opportunity to create digital loyalty, better product positioning and influence customer purchasing patterns.

No wonder, at the NASSCOM forum, this shift in paradigm was at the core of the discussion.  The new technology buying pattern of the consumer is  now based on trust, transparency, conversation with friends and family and expert opinions. It is all about empowering your customers by providing them with intitutive choices rather than on- the- face advertisements.

I see all this bringing in a big shift in the way we see our roles in the future. Firstly, we business leaders need to appreciate the transformation of our own roles from chief executives to chief enablers in this new age digital world. Secondly, it is only by empowering and enthusing our customers with new age technologies that we can spark the spirit of innovation, which will be solely needed to tackle the increasingly complex demands the customer of tomorrow is already posing.