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Is it possible to deliver software improvements faster and with better quality in a highly regulated environment? What if the organization only uses off-the-shelf commercial packages like SAP rather than custom software? Oh, and much of the team is still learning the ropes? And by the way, our business users are unavailable during monthly and quarterly close, and to top it all off whole divisions go off-line for weeks or months at a time during refinery “turnaround” events? How can we improve cycle times, if it sometimes takes us months just to figure out how to design a solution for a single request?
In this session, we will examine a case study at an energy company that needed to increase their speed of delivery and their level of quality, while at the same time controlling costs. They started to adopt Kanban a year ago, by visualizing their waterfall process on a board and holding a daily stand-up. However, cycle times were still unacceptably long, and the board did not change much day-by-day. Worse, the business was getting more impatient and the backlog of urgent requests was growing longer. The team was ready to take the next step and deepen their kanban implementation.
We will examine a number of improvements that were made and the impact of each one of them. Larger work items were broken down into user stories, enabling progress to be tracked at a more granular level and helping the team to break down difficult problems into smaller, bite-sized chunks. Defects were captured individually on the board so large items did not appear to “stall” for no reason. Time-boxed “Spikes” could be created to capture efforts required to identify alternatives and reduce risk in design or implementation. The kanban boards went through multiple iterations as we updated them to better reflect our new process.
Hand-in-hand with these improvements came training and practice. How do we create properly formed user stories? When is it appropriate to create a Spike? How can we make process policies explicit? Please see this case study about one Fortune 200 company’s journey towards a deeper and more complete implementation of Kanban. Perhaps the “alternative path to agility” is right for your organization?