GE Healthcare Goes AgileImaging unit takes control of its development environment and likesthe results By Andrew Deitsch and Ross HughesG E Healthcare is a $17 billion- provals have happened, coding begins. A third challenge for Imaging Solu- a-year business unit of Gen- Coding typically takes several tions’ product development effort was eral Electric, making every- months, and then we release the prod- the many artificial barriers that existed thing from multispectral uct into a test environment where we among functions, especially marketinghigh-definition CT scanners to diag- can collect customer feedback. This is and engineering. These barriersnostic pharmaceutical devices. Our Im- usually the first time customers see the weren’t any different than in mostaging Solutions unit, which has 375 new product before we begin a rigor- large organizations, but it was clearengineers supporting 18 products that that they were becoming more prob-increase clinician productivity, a year lematic over time. 5ago faced several challenges meetingcommitments in this multiproduct dis- Lessons Agile Transitiontributed environment. First, we struggled with the pre- Learned To address these issues, early this year Imaging Solutions replaced thedictability of our program execution. 1. Be realistic: Your organization’s waterfall software developmentThe cycle time on projects was too unique needs will dictate what can be methodology it was using with an agilelong, taking from 12 to 24 months, accomplished in a two-week sprint. initiative. We already had pockets ofoften with significant delays. These 2. Overcommunicate: Don’t assume agile development going on within var-long cycle times frequently caused the everyone will get it the ﬁrst time. They won’t. ious development teams around thebusiness to push to add features be- 3. Modify: It’s OK to use a hybrid ap- world, but they were run by engineer-yond the initial requirements, fearing proach to agile. GE Imaging Solutions ing groups that only used parts of agile.that the market couldn’t wait for an - needed more up-front planning and post- They used Test-Driven Development, sprint testing, for example.other cycle to get those features. That, Continuous Integration, and ran proj-in turn, often increased a program’s 4. Coordinate teams: They can learn ects in sprints, but didn’t adopt otherscope, causing further delays and in- from and help each other; the closer in facets of the methodology. alignment they are, the better.creasing the cycle time even more. A We liked the agile-based scrum ap-longer cycle time puts a project at risk 5. Cultural change is key: People will proach of having the product owner assince the requirements gathered at the have problems with the changes agile an integral part of the development brings. Identify passionate individuals andbeginning are out of date by the time team. We hoped that adopting agile get them to help with adoption.the product hits the market. would break down these barriers and get Second, our waterfall process fol- the whole business working in unison tolowed the typical phased-gate ap- ous verification and validation effort release the right product to our cus-proach, which begins with gathering prior to release. tomers on time. We especially liked therequirements, creating a high-level de- The challenge with this approach is idea of biweekly sprints, where productsign followed by detailed designs, and that the ability to incorporate customer- increments were completed, and thethen creating a traceability ma trix requested modifications occurs so late chance to demonstrate functionality toshowing how those design details tie in the cycle that any significant misses customers at the end of the each sprintback to the system and user require- could require complete changes to the and get immediate feedback.ments. At that point, a formal design design, causing a lot of wasted time and We began by visiting colleagues atreview occurs and once the various ap- effort, and delaying the project further. one of our joint ventures who usedinformationweek.com Dec. 6, 2010 59 Copyright 2010 United Business Media LLC. Important Note: This PDF is provided solely as a reader service. It is not intended for reproduction or public distribution. For article reprints, e-prints and permissions please contact: Wright’s Reprints, 1-877-652-5295 / email@example.com
[DR. DOBB’S REPORT ] AGILE DEVELOPMENTagile methodologies from the begin-ning of their development process and MORE DR. DOBB’S ONLINEwere having great success with it. We Quality Management Best Practicessent different people a number of Is a risk-driven development approach the right one for you?times to observe sprint reviews, retro- informationweek.com/1286/ddj/qualityspectives, and sprint planning, as well Q&A With Martin Fowler And Rebecca Parsons On DSLsas to learn how they use third-party The nature of domain-specific languages as well as when and where to use themtools—like Rally’s Agile ALM plat- informationweek.com/1286/ddj/dslform—to create a single source of Embedding Data Visualization In Rich Internet Applicationsrecord for progress and quality across Visualizing complex data facilitates rapid understanding; here’s how to add data visualization to your appstheir software development teams. We informationweek.com/1286/ddj/riaalso met with the quality and regula-tory team to understand how it was team for the pilot and protected it from overcommunicate and keep everyonemaking agile work within its Quality outside distractions. We defined a aligned.Management System. manageable scope with a short time re- Finally, we found that we can be ag- Those conversations got us excited, lease horizon of about four months. ile, but the rigors of being in a regu-and we began to focus on getting sen- We established clear success criteria so lated industry require us to operate aior leadership support. They’d seen the that we could evaluate whether we hybrid development model with moreresults of using agile development at achieved our goals. Yet the project was up-front planning and post-sprint test-the joint venture (especially the fre- meaty enough that the team could ing than would be found in a pure agilequent customer feedback), and were learn scrum skills while delivering environment.quick to support our move. something meaningful to the business. Following the pilot, we brought our Our next step was to hire an out- agile coach back in to train everyoneside agile coach, who met with the What We Learned who hadn’t already been trained. Weentire team to understand our prod- The pilot identified important les- formed 10 scrum teams of seven toucts, organization, and development sons. First, we operate in a highly reg- nine people and allowed them to self-processes. Once he assessed our cur- ulated environment so there are a organize. Even the leaders got engagedrent state, he customized our scrum number of additional quality and reg- by forming their own scrum team.training. ulatory steps that must be completed With more people getting involved, We decided to launch our move to before we can accept a “user story”— we needed to coordinate the variousagile with one team. Then after that that scenario written in the business teams that were all contributing towardteam was comfortable, roll it out to one language of the user that captures what a common release. We instituted scrumsite. And, finally, we could take it to all he or she wants to achieve. Therefore, of scrum meetings with a representa-of our development sites globally. our “definition of done”—that is, the tive from each of the teams to coordi- The objective for our pilot was to list of activities that add value to the nate activities. We also scheduled ouracquire scrum experience, under- product such as unit tests, code cover- sprint reviews so that they’re all on thestand how we could apply these tech- age, and code reviews—turned out to same day. So now, every other Wednes-niques within our larger business be lengthy. Our development teams day, the teams conduct their sprint re-(such as making it work within our need to plan for that when estimating views together in the morning; afterQuality Management System), and to what they accomplish in a two-week lunch, they hold planning meetings forbuild confidence among team mem- sprint. the upcoming sprint. This ensuresbers and leadership that we could be We also learned the importance of shared learning among the teams andsuccessful. communicating, communicating, and visibility into what’s going on outside Everyone involved in the pilot—ex- then communicating some more. It any one team’s activities.ecutive leadership, managers, mar- can’t be emphasized enough how im- We also found we needed to identifyketers, developers, testers, and techni- portant it is to make sure everyone cross-team dependencies early in thecal writers—was trained in the scrum from the CIO to the developers knows sprint or risk teams getting in one an-methodology. We needed the whole what’s happening. Often people don’t other’s way. Rally’s Agile ALM platformcrew on board; we didn’t want this to hear the message after the first, second, provided insight into cross-team de-be just an engineering effort. and even third time it’s said. So, while pendencies and real-time status up- We staffed a strong cross-functional it may feel repetitive, it’s valuable to dates. With these capabilities, we60 Dec. 6, 2010 informationweek.com
[DR. DOBB’S REPORT ] AGILE DEVELOPMENTstarted to see teams swapping user sto- pulling work, make commitments questions.ries and tasks. Teams that complete around that work, and then be account- The pilot project was delivered suc-their own tasks early are helping ones able to deliver on those commitments. cessfully with the correct features andthat are slower. There is, indeed, an art Trust is an important part of people be- functionality. The release ran over byto balancing the decentralized control ing comfortable enough to embrace two sprints, so we’re still working onof independent scrum teams. change, along with providing a safe en- the predictability of our execution. Cultural changes are the hardest part vironment where teams can learn, fail, Understanding a team’s velocity andof adopting agile. That’s something and bring up issues without fear of using it to predict future execution is awe’d heard from others prior to jump- repercussion—this is critical for success. learning process that will take someing into the methodology, and it turned While we’ve only just begun our time—and some more sprints—to per-out to be true. People often find it dif- journey, we’ve seen positive results al- fect. However, we’re making progress,ficult to change, and so it’s important ready. Getting feedback early and fre- and we feel that the benefits so far ofto identify change agents within the or- quently from customers has let us pri- our agile adoption are worth the effort.ganization who are passionate and can oritize features correctly and, in one We’re now beginning the next phase ofhelp with the adoption. A key aspect of example, identify a clinical workflow our transition by rolling out scrumthe culture change is the role of man- that we hadn’t known about. We’ve globally to the rest of GE Healthcare.agers and individual contributors on seen much more transparency and ac-scrum teams. Managers need to avoid countability among our teams. Team Andrew Deitsch is VP and general man-a command-and-control style where ownership has increased, and scrum ager for GE Healthcare IT’s Imaging So-they’re pushing work, but rather build pro cesses have brought the entire lutions group. Ross Hughes is GEempowered teams. team—from individual contributors to Healthcare IT’s ScrumMaster. Write to Individual contributors need to start leadership—together, asking the right us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[DR. DOBB’S REPORT ] AGILE DEVELOPMENTQ&A: Scrum SuccessS crum is an iterative methodology often seen in agile software development. Victor Szalvay is a scrum project ex- pert who leads development for CollabNet’s ScrumWorks suite, which is used by more than half of the Fortune 100. Szalvay joined CollabNet in February when it acquired Danube Technologies, a provider of scrum products and services that Szalvay co-founded. Dr. Dobb’s managing editor Deirdre Blake recently spoke with him aboutthe state of agile development. Dr. Dobb’s: What’s the most compelling reason for an organization to adopt agile processes? Szalvay: Agile development makes clear responsibilities associated with a product’s direction and quality. Beforeadopting agile, there’s typically a game of “hot potato” at most organizations regarding who’s responsible for schedulesand the features delivered. At the same time, managerial pressure to deliver puts developers in a position to cut quality. Agile frameworks like scrumappoint a single person who consciously makes these trade-offs, while affording development teams the ability to implementwithout shouldering quality decisions. Dr. Dobb’s: An agile approach requires effective communication to work. What are some techniques teams canuse to keep everyone in sync when transitioning to a truly collaborative workflow? Szalvay: The ideal technique is to colocate cross-functional teams in a bullpen-style environment. If colocation isn’tpossible, then start with cross-functional teams. This requires breaking people out of their functional silos and askingthem to work as a real team—developers, quality assurance staff, documentation writers, all together. Then require thatwork be delivered incrementally, not just when the code is complete. The biggest obstacle to agility is a siloed organiza-tion with gated handoffs between roles, because it makes it easy for upstream roles to rely on downstream roles for qual-ity. Dr. Dobb’s: In what ways has the agile methodology been affected by the shift toward cloud computing? Szalvay: As teams and organizations start thinking agile, they realize the value of rapid builds, continuous integration, andheavy test automation. These practices enable agility by providing a safety net of instant feedback when team membersembark on radical code changes. The faster the feedback, the better, but most organizations are hardware-resource con-strained. Enter cloud computing. Once there’s an infrastructure in place, developers can deploy to the cloud and get feedbackfrom test automation suites running in the cloud. And since it’s on demand, resources are well utilized and costs stay rea-sonable.63 Dec. 6, 2010 informationweek.com