10 months, 20 days ago

ArchiMate® Modeling Language and Agile – A Conversation with Marc Lankhorst

This blog, the third in a series with Marc Lankhorst, Managing Consultant for BiZZdesign, looks at how architecture in general and the ArchiMate language in particular can add a lot of value to agile approaches.

1 year, 6 months ago

Agile Plus DevOps Is Slowly But Steadily Reaching Enterprise Scale

Agile is still alive and well and in demand, according to Forrester’s Agile adoption panel. This year, our biannual survey tracking the health of Agile initiatives focused on the main challenge: Agile at scale. As software teams get further along their…

3 years, 2 months ago

Scaled Agile Factory – Going Beyond the Usual Suspects

Abstract: If you address the question of how to scale Agile projects by considering what framework to use, you are only looking at one aspect of the problem. Scaling is all about coordination – managing enterprise considerations and cross program dependencies, and the defacto frameworks (SAFe, LeSS and DAD) focus on the people and process dimensions. However, in combination with a factory approach you may be able to automate many of the compliance and dependency management issues.

The question of how to scale Agile development has been around a while. In January 2015 I commented [1] on a clear trend in which my customers were voicing concerns about loss of consistency; inability to govern; lack of coordination and increasing time to market. Since then I have observed many large organizations adopting SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) perhaps because it appears to be the only game in town, or perhaps there’s good marketing or there’s strength in numbers. But the criticisms of SAFe [2] haven’t gone away. The central and continuing concern is that SAFe compromises core Agile principles of self-organizing, cross functional teams that have full responsibility for the delivery of potentially shippable increments. And that SAFe looks suspiciously like WaterScrumFall because there’s a high overhead of portfolio, value stream and project management and in all probability intentional architecture. Now I have mixed opinions on SAFe; I see positives in value streams and product management which are important. And for organizations that have large programs, highly organized, structured approaches will be seen as lower risk, and indeed something that takes them some way down the Agile path, without straying too far from conventional management comfort zones. But the outcomes are unlikely to be inherently “agile”.

What SAFe does, is provide a rather conventional approach for a complex problem that most enterprises have – that is to deliver high integrity solutions that can work in an enterprise context that demands cross project dependency management, consistent data and reference architecture, collaboration with the existing portfolio complexities, compliance with enterprise standards and governance etc.

There are alternatives. Craig Larman and Bas Vodde in their books [3] and more recently with their LeSS initiative [4] have pursued a very different path that starts with Scrum and scales by understanding the needs for coordination while adhering to core Scrum principles. In their forthcoming book [5] they say, “LeSS is (1) lightweight, (2) simple to understand, and (3) difficult to master—due to essential complexity”. And this allows us to contrast the different approaches; while SAFe clearly works at some level, it has its roots in conventional large scale project management, whereas LeSS is lightweight, but requires much deeper understanding of the systems dynamics because of the inherent complexity of all the coordination requirements.
So the real question underlying Scaling Agile should be, “can we address some of the coordination requirements in a manner that reduces complexity and eliminates some of the need for additional layers of management or events?”

In my post Service Factory 2.0 [6] I describe the conceptual background of the Software Factory, ideas pioneered by my old friend Keith Short and Jack Greenfield while they were at Microsoft. Today these have evolved and become specialized around a framework of tools, repeatable processes and patterns for creation and assembly of services – manifest as first order components with formal interfaces. If you consider that all core business functionality is increasingly composed of services and their operations, this provides us with a reference architecture that by design implements separation of concerns.  Figure 1 below is a conceptual view of the scope of the service factory in terms of managed objects.

Figure 1
Naturally there will be other patterns involved in any solution including UX and workflow; but for most enterprise class solutions, a high proportion of the functionality should comprise services and business rules. This allows a consistent, highly automated approach to architecture, requirements specification, design and test. The factory effectively implements a proven service reference architecture as a platform which can be customized for individual programs, projects and technologies. While the factory platform is similar to an architecture runway in scope and intent, because it is model based the factory framework enables continuous evolution of the platform capabilities that are automatically inherited into work in progress factory code allowing program wide changes to be incorporated, often with minimal or no change to the service specific code. And the factory is a repository of the life cycle artifacts that can be leveraged for various management tasks including governance of traceability, impact analysis, etc. 
Let’s consider the key coordination and management activities typically required in a scaled agile program and how the factory may facilitate that. In Figure 2 below I have used the SAFe layers of portfolio, program and team, albeit without the value stream level. But apart from that, the view is intended to be framework neutral. The diagram illustrates how the Factory provides a full life cycle backplane that establishes the underlying (meta) model that ensures all the participants are in compliance with core concepts from portfolio planning through to delivery and production. The populated model is therefore able to provide essential information particularly about dependencies, but equally complete traceability and governance between business requirements and delivered services and rules.  
Figure 2
In the LeSS framework, Larman and Vodde disregard constructs such as ART (Agile Release Train) and 8 to 12 week PIs (Program Increments) and also the Hardening Sprint, preferring to use the standard Scrum duration of 2 to 4 weeks, with continuous integration.  We might assume these management constructs (ARTs and PIs) were invented because of the difficulty of effective inter team communications, and the overhead that creates. Larman and Vodde have a lot of good ideas about how to manage effective inter Teams communications, but their approach is essentially based on feature or story dependencies. In the factory environment inter-team dependencies can be more accurately based on service operation dependencies. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of how the factory can be leveraged to manage activity. The service specification becomes a pivotal work product; as it becomes available other teams and team members have access to detailed behaviour information that can inform and facilitate working ahead for developing depending services, test case development including automation assistance in case development, plus devops. 
Another huge issue in Agile projects is managing technical debt. In the factory environment the standard patterns generate all the infrastructure and shared code, and when changes take place, as discussed above, teams can perform an architecture update, inheriting all the changes to bring their project in line with the latest reference architecture. And because the factory is driven by the specification level, independent of technology it is inherently late binding, allowing change if technology with minimum impact.  
By utilizing work products that are part of a defined process based on the full life cycle reference architecture, the factory approach reduces the essential complexity of the scaling task. All moving parts are under management. This doesn’t detract from the inherent purity of the Agile approach. Rather, the defined process provides clarity over the minimum necessary “planning work” (intentional architecture, rules definition and business requirements). And the reference architecture and factory process provide a firm foundation on which emergent architecture can be more effectively carried out by the cross functional delivery team. This is likely to encourage programs to adopt a hybrid approach to their organizing model, embracing elements of LeSS like guidance to optimize multiple concurrent Scrum based sprints with continuous delivery, and to complement them with minimum necessary elements of SAFe, particularly those that are required to communicate to more conventional stakeholders. But, at least for mid-sized projects, maybe up to 10 teams, it seems overkill to adopt the formality of PI Planning and everything that comes with it.
In this post I have focused on the scaled Agile approach for projects, but it’s also useful to understand the factory has other important outcomes. First the highly modular nature of the reference architecture (see Figure 1) leads to “solutions” that are inherently agile. Because solutions are comprised primarily of services and rules with strong formal contracts, implemented using component based implementation patterns, the horizon of change is likely to be very constrained. Further the specification approach in which services, rules, data and processes are defined independent of implementation and technology provides high levels of visibility to the business, and high transparency and traceability of the implemented solution. Finally, we have a way to realize architecture in inherently agile solutions without Big Upfront Design, or indeed Big Upfront Organization, that will of course never become legacy because they can be continuously evolved. 
[2] Reasoned criticisms of SAFe
[3] Scaling Lean & Agile, Craig Larman and Bas Vodde, Addison Wesley, 2009
5 years, 3 months ago

Agile is not Dead, it’s Morphing

I note healthy discussion around whether Agile is Dead [ref 1]. And while I may sympathize (sic) with many of the comments, particularly the commercial trivialization of education, the core issue must surely be the difficulty of adopting de facto Agile practices to support real world enterprise programs and projects. My experience is most of the advice and guidance out there is predicated on scaling the de facto Agile development methods. And this isn’t the best place to start.

An exception is Dean Leffingwell’s SAFe, [ref 2] which does introduce the idea of portfolio, program and project perspectives and intentional architecture. I recommend this framework as an intelligent set of practices, but for me it doesn’t go far enough because it is still primarily about development practices. This is the core problem – that Agile is development specific and practices only. In the enterprise, Agile development needs to be an integral part of a bigger ecosystem spanning business design, architecture, requirements, modernization and operational transformation practices plus architecture, delivery and modernization disciplines.

I am indebted to Dave Thomas whose recent blog, [ref 1] includes a worthy successor to the Agile Manifesto, reducing the original, development specific values and principles to a minimalist, more generic set. He says; “here is how to do something in an agile fashion
Find out where you are
Take a small step towards your goal
Adjust your understanding based on what you learned
Repeat
And this is more useful in the enterprise context because it is relevant to a broader set of activities than purely software development.

The diagram below is an outline maturity model template for Agile in the enterprise. It suggests there are four key views that need to be part of the transformation.  In addition to agile practices we need to be equally focused on what elements of agile architecture are required for an enterprise. What the agile delivery framework is and how the existing application portfolio will be modernized to progressively eliminate the duplication and complexity present in every enterprise on the planet.

People & Process. Much of the dissatisfaction with Agile arises from the limitations of the basic Agile practices, and the need to compromise these in an enterprise context. Both DAD and RUP (yes it’s an iterative method) are examples of extended or hybrid practices that introduce coordination, phasing and other disciplines that are more acceptable in enterprises that require traceability, governance and compliance with pre-existing life cycle practices. Enterprise frameworks such as Leffingwell’s SAFe as discussed and Everware-CBDI’s SOAM are examples of frameworks that adhere more closely to the purity of Agile principles while addressing enterprise specific needs. SAFe provides a framework which is more strongly Lean, coordinating portfolio, program and project activity to meet agile release train demand. SOAM provides a complementary, full life cycle process framework for software service modernization and delivery.

Agile Architecture. There is a requirement to articulate the enterprise requirements for agility as a reference architecture for business agility. In today’s fast moving world core architecture for the business, services, implementations, technology and deployments needs to be:
under continuous development using Agile principles
derived from the assessment of business needs for response to change, and constantly updated to reflect competitive and technology opportunities and threats.
mapped to service architectures, patterns, policies and modernization strategies
modeled using MDA/MDD to allow delivery as consistent architecture runways for portfolio and demand management, programs and projects.

Agile Delivery Framework. Most enterprises have a well-defined delivery framework of tools, repositories, templates etc that are designed to support well established QA and delivery policies. This is one of the most common inhibitors that Agile projects in the enterprise have to  overcome. In an enterprise Agile context that framework must be realigned to provide maximum automation of life cycle management and governance so that key enterprise requirements for integrity can be met without loss of productivity. Similarly the development  activity must be structured so that developers can extend the architecture runway with business solution specific rules and behaviors in a managed fashion which preserves the integrity of the architecture. Everware-CBDI has pioneered this runway extension capability implemented as a model driven (MDA/MDD) capability in which the runway code is generated and provided to developers enabling very significant productivity gains in both forward engineering and even more so in iteration.

Agile Modernization.  Finally in an enterprise context the elephant in the room is the existing or legacy portfolio. Unless this elephant is addressed, the enterprise will continue to create more and more complexity, increase costs and reduce response times to change. What’s required is a discipline of continuous, Agile modernization. That means, using Dave Thomas’s minimalist manifesto [above] every portfolio item, program and project must include steps to find out the current situation and address minimum goals that reduce complexity and support a progressive modernization strategy. Without that, all enterprise Agile projects will remain narrow focus and simply add technical debt.

I suggest that while Agile is not dead in the enterprise it is certainly struggling to survive. This is because Agile practices alone will be suffocated at birth by enterprise realities of consistency and integrity; or turned into narrow focus, standalone projects; or morphed into BAU. I really don’t want to enter into a debate about nouns or verbs, life is too short.  IMO Agile has considerable momentum and it can be morphed into a ground breaking concept that delivers enterprise business agility.

References
1 Agile is Dead (Long Live Agility)
2 Dean Leffingwell SAFe

5 years, 3 months ago

Agile is not Dead, it’s Morphing

I note healthy discussion around whether Agile is Dead [ref 1]. And while I may sympathize (sic) with many of the comments, particularly the commercial trivialization of education, the core issue must surely be the difficulty of adopting de facto Agile practices to support real world enterprise programs and projects. My experience is most of the advice and guidance out there is predicated on scaling the de facto Agile development methods. And this isn’t the best place to start.

An exception is Dean Leffingwell’s SAFe, [ref 2] which does introduce the idea of portfolio, program and project perspectives and intentional architecture. I recommend this framework as an intelligent set of practices, but for me it doesn’t go far enough because it is still primarily about development practices. This is the core problem – that Agile is development specific and practices only. In the enterprise, Agile development needs to be an integral part of a bigger ecosystem spanning business design, architecture, requirements, modernization and operational transformation practices plus architecture, delivery and modernization disciplines.

I am indebted to Dave Thomas whose recent blog, [ref 1] includes a worthy successor to the Agile Manifesto, reducing the original, development specific values and principles to a minimalist, more generic set. He says; “here is how to do something in an agile fashion
Find out where you are
Take a small step towards your goal
Adjust your understanding based on what you learned
Repeat
And this is more useful in the enterprise context because it is relevant to a broader set of activities than purely software development.

The diagram below is an outline maturity model template for Agile in the enterprise. It suggests there are four key views that need to be part of the transformation.  In addition to agile practices we need to be equally focused on what elements of agile architecture are required for an enterprise. What the agile delivery framework is and how the existing application portfolio will be modernized to progressively eliminate the duplication and complexity present in every enterprise on the planet.

People & Process. Much of the dissatisfaction with Agile arises from the limitations of the basic Agile practices, and the need to compromise these in an enterprise context. Both DAD and RUP (yes it’s an iterative method) are examples of extended or hybrid practices that introduce coordination, phasing and other disciplines that are more acceptable in enterprises that require traceability, governance and compliance with pre-existing life cycle practices. Enterprise frameworks such as Leffingwell’s SAFe as discussed and Everware-CBDI’s SOAM are examples of frameworks that adhere more closely to the purity of Agile principles while addressing enterprise specific needs. SAFe provides a framework which is more strongly Lean, coordinating portfolio, program and project activity to meet agile release train demand. SOAM provides a complementary, full life cycle process framework for software service modernization and delivery.

Agile Architecture. There is a requirement to articulate the enterprise requirements for agility as a reference architecture for business agility. In today’s fast moving world core architecture for the business, services, implementations, technology and deployments needs to be:
under continuous development using Agile principles
derived from the assessment of business needs for response to change, and constantly updated to reflect competitive and technology opportunities and threats.
mapped to service architectures, patterns, policies and modernization strategies
modeled using MDA/MDD to allow delivery as consistent architecture runways for portfolio and demand management, programs and projects.

Agile Delivery Framework. Most enterprises have a well-defined delivery framework of tools, repositories, templates etc that are designed to support well established QA and delivery policies. This is one of the most common inhibitors that Agile projects in the enterprise have to  overcome. In an enterprise Agile context that framework must be realigned to provide maximum automation of life cycle management and governance so that key enterprise requirements for integrity can be met without loss of productivity. Similarly the development  activity must be structured so that developers can extend the architecture runway with business solution specific rules and behaviors in a managed fashion which preserves the integrity of the architecture. Everware-CBDI has pioneered this runway extension capability implemented as a model driven (MDA/MDD) capability in which the runway code is generated and provided to developers enabling very significant productivity gains in both forward engineering and even more so in iteration.

Agile Modernization.  Finally in an enterprise context the elephant in the room is the existing or legacy portfolio. Unless this elephant is addressed, the enterprise will continue to create more and more complexity, increase costs and reduce response times to change. What’s required is a discipline of continuous, Agile modernization. That means, using Dave Thomas’s minimalist manifesto [above] every portfolio item, program and project must include steps to find out the current situation and address minimum goals that reduce complexity and support a progressive modernization strategy. Without that, all enterprise Agile projects will remain narrow focus and simply add technical debt.

I suggest that while Agile is not dead in the enterprise it is certainly struggling to survive. This is because Agile practices alone will be suffocated at birth by enterprise realities of consistency and integrity; or turned into narrow focus, standalone projects; or morphed into BAU. I really don’t want to enter into a debate about nouns or verbs, life is too short.  IMO Agile has considerable momentum and it can be morphed into a ground breaking concept that delivers enterprise business agility.

References
1 Agile is Dead (Long Live Agility)
2 Dean Leffingwell SAFe