First half of Delivery Pipeline is Critical- Systems Thinking is a Key

admin   February 11, 2018   Comments Off on First half of Delivery Pipeline is Critical- Systems Thinking is a Key

Irrespective of Agile or Waterfall, I feel the first half of the delivery pipeline is very critical, although the second half is important. Most of the projects usually face challenges due to lack of understanding of the backlog in bigger picture.It’s even more pivotal in Agile because of incremental delivery at shorter cycles.

Ever found you in similar situation where development/design team cribbing on requirements /solution during in the middle of the sprint and affecting the whole sprint/release timelines. Typical pattern we observe usually unless we handle the first half of the pipe on requirements /backlog prioritization. Backlog prioritization is one of the key activities in the whole delivery process and it should go hand in hand with architecture /solution.

Challenges with Backlog Prioritization:

Customers don’t (really) know what they want: Possibly the most common problem in the requirements analysis phase is that customers have only a vague idea of what they need, and it’s up to us to ask the right questions and perform the analysis necessary to turn this amorphous vision into a formally-documented software requirements specification that can, in turn, be used as the basis for both a project plan and an engineering architecture.

Priority changes during the project: Customers can more clearly see problems with the original plan and make necessary course corrections as we progress in delivery; it may also occur because changes in the external environment require reshaping of the original business problem and hence necessitates a different solution than the one originally proposed. This cannot be avoided with the current dynamic market conditions and needs frequent prioritization of backlog to sustain in the market.

Not keeping the backlog healthy:

Once the product backlog is built, it’s important to regularly maintain it to keep pace with the program. Product owners should review the backlog before each iteration planning meeting to ensure prioritization is correct and feedback from the last iteration has been incorporated. Regular review of the backlog is often called “backlog grooming”. Once the backlog gets larger, product owners need to group the backlog into near-term and long-term items. Near-term items need to be fully fleshed out before they are labeled as such. This means complete user stories have been drawn up, collaboration with design and development has been sorted out, and estimates from development have been made.

Stakeholders have Conflicting priorities: When a new system is created, it must adhere to the needs of several groups of stakeholders. It is possible for these various groups to have conflicting views and priorities. The best approach to this problem is to have a designated authority in the organization who is in charge of negotiating the conflicting matters and makes the final decision. The requirement gathering process requires having tough, open ended questions for the stakeholders to answer. Stakeholders need time to fully articulate their ideas and perspective. Rushing the process may result in proposed terms that are considered out of scope, or promoting individual agendas rather than the organization’s vision. A good practice is to have multiple meetings with enough time between meetings for the stakeholders to digest the outputs, thus ensuring that the requirement gathering process is on the right track.

Time to move towards Systems Thinking, key to success:

Systems thinking can be understood as the capacity of viewing things holistically encompassing all types of different inter-relationships between the existing elements in a complex system. The demand for newer structures require systematic skills that are competent enough to provide suitable advises of organizational management. It is high time that organizations go beyond the linear perspective of models and algorithms for business operations.

This strategic thinking process from a holistic perspective and seeking lessons from mistakes of the past is known as “systems thinking”. Apart from business complexities, the ever-changing consumer behavior theories like hedonistic consumption, consumer culture, consumer identity project etc. also build pressure for “out-of-box” thinking. Also, to be better equipped for alarmed emergencies and ensure long-term sustainable competitive advantage. There is an ardent need for thinking beyond linear business decision making models and adopting systems thinking.

Understand and Optimize the Full Value Stream:

Understanding and optimizing the full value stream—another aspect of systems thinking—is the only way to reduce the total time it takes to go from concept to cash. Systems thinking mandates that leaders and practitioners grasp and continuously optimize the full value stream, especially as it crosses technical and organizational boundaries. systems thinking requires a new approach to management as well, a perspective where managers are problem solvers, take the long view, proactively eliminate impediments, and lead the changes necessary to improve systems and performance.

Leverage Continuous Delivery Pipeline:

The Continuous Delivery Pipeline represents the ability to deliver new functionality to users far more frequently than current processes are able to. For some software systems, ‘continuous’ means daily releases or even releasing multiple times per day. For others, continuous may mean weekly or monthly. The delivery pipeline is there to maintain quality while adding functionality at the same time. This cuts down development time while enabling the organizations to deliver increased value to end users without a commensurate increase in time.