• Cognizant 20-20 InsightsAgile Planning in a Multi-project,Multi-team EnvironmentHow organizations evolve to cope with th...
Peeling the Agile Onion                                    backlog and from there it should be picked up                  ...
Case Two: E-commerce Platform in the                  prototypes and demos are used to minimize theAirline Industry       ...
Front-Door Request Estimates                                                    30                                        ...
About CognizantCognizant (NASDAQ: CTSH) is a leading provider of information technology, consulting, and business process ...
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Agile Planning in a Multi-project, Multi-team Environment


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Two Agile development case studies illustrate the key roles in the Scrum method of the outer three layers of the Agile "planning onion": strategy, portfolio and product. Coordinating the roles of multiple teams and projects involved the creation of a solid front-door process including backlog, vision, estimates, quotes, inception and transition.

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Agile Planning in a Multi-project, Multi-team Environment

  1. 1. • Cognizant 20-20 InsightsAgile Planning in a Multi-project,Multi-team EnvironmentHow organizations evolve to cope with the challenge of scaling Agileplanning and improving its reliability. Executive Summary the number of people involved and the frequency can increase as you peel down through the onion. As Agile methods continue to gain popularity Therefore, it is vital to get the first three layers across the software development community, the right and to mitigate the risk of spending money Scrum method is on the verge of becoming a de on features that may not be built or may be built facto industry standard. Though there are success differently. stories and recommendations, additional under- standing of the challenges in the adoption of This white paper, with its focus on two illustrative Agile methods in general, and Scrum in particular, cases, throws light on industry best practices in is needed. Agile planning in a multiple-project, multi-team environment by detailing the first three layers The adoption of the Scrum process in a multi-team of the planning onion — strategy, portfolio and context — with groups working simultaneously on product. several projects — is one area that is in severe need of attention. Case One: Online Platform in the Planning Onion Telecommunications Industry Mike Cohn, the cofounder of Scrum Alliance, has Operating in the European region, a leading tele- described the planning continuum using an onion communications company undertook the con- analogy. With this image, strategy is the outermost struction of an online platform. The program layer followed successively by layers for portfolio, consisted of 20-plus subprojects spanning product, release, iteration and daily segments as diverse areas, from online shopping to customer you approach the onion core (see Figure 1). There care. The platform was developed and maintained is no one tool or technique perfectly suited for by a mixture of in-house development teams and each level in the onion. third-party vendors operating in both Agile and Waterfall methods. However, the delivery team The certainty of undertaking activities addressed and product management team were strongly in each of these levels increases as you peel the committed to the Agile methodology. onion. As a result, the amount of detail addressed, cognizant 20-20 insights | november 2012
  2. 2. Peeling the Agile Onion backlog and from there it should be picked up by one of the front-door team members. • Vision: This is where the front-door member works out the high-level requirements by estab- lishing the goal, the benefits and the customer experience. This team member will work out Strategy the best way to deliver the work with the funds Portfolio available, and set the initial expectations on Product the size of the challenge. Particular emphasis Release is given to how the solution fits with the overall Iteration strategy and within the current portfolio. Daily • Initial estimate: Once the scope of the require- ment is understood, the front-door member works with the online delivery team and third parties if needed. The front-door memberSource: Mountain Goat Software. estimates the high-level cost to complete theFigure 1 request. The front-door member then goesThe teams received more than 1,000 requests through the estimate with the product owner.to add, enhance or modify functionality of the • Inception: Sometimes it just isn’t possible toplatform in the last year alone from different nail down the requirements. In such cases, theareas of the business. So, the challenge was to front-door member brings the project teamensure that the delivery team — consisting of together with representatives of the onlinemultiple Scrum teams and vendors — adhere to delivery team, who’ll help shape the require-the strategy set out by the product management ments and devise a more detailed estimate.team. Given that only one of every two requestsgets financial approval, this mammoth task had to • Detailed quote: After the inception, a detailed quote with an indicative cost to complete thebe executed with minimal waste of effort. It also piece of work is given. Note that the quoterequired an evolving design and architecture to is given in monetary terms based on T-shirtcomply with the Agile principles of development. estimation. Naturally, the variance and riskThis was achieved by setting up a dedicated front- involved in the estimates is made clear to thedoor team that sits within the delivery team to product owner.act as a primary point of contact for each product • Transition to delivery: Once the product ownerowner. Every request from any product owner had approves the estimate, the request is transi-to go through the process diagrammed in Figure tioned for delivery. The product management2, which enabled the delivery team to adhere to team then prioritizes the requests by liaisingthe first three layers of the planning onion. with the product owners. In the Scrum of Scrums meeting, one Scrum team picks upThe front-door process includes the following: the request based on available resources and skill sets. Note that from this point on, we are• Backlog: This is where the business and dealing with the bottom three layers of the product owners engage with the front-door team about any piece of work, whether it’s by planning onion. The Scrum team then liaises phone, e-mail or face to face. It’s added into the with the product owner to deliver the request per the business requirements.Front-Door Process Initial Detailed Transition to Backlog Vision Inception Estimate Quote DeliveryFigure 2 cognizant 20-20 insights 2
  3. 3. Case Two: E-commerce Platform in the prototypes and demos are used to minimize theAirline Industry use of documents. Once the client (product owner) is happy, he agrees on the delivery method andOur second case in point involves an e-commerce date with the project management office. If theplatform (or product) developed, customized and request is approved, the feature request returnshosted by a global software provider to the airline as a Story to the backlog item with well-definedindustry. This solution is used by more than 20 acceptance criteria for development.airlines operating in different geographies. Thediverse nature of the legislation and regulatory Resultscompliance needed, coupled with varying require- For both the cases, the observed results of thements for both budget and conventional airlines, planning approach are as follows:make it a complex systems development activity.At any point in time, more than 100 requests fromvarious clients using different versions of the • Case One: The front-door team received 1,012 requests over the first year. All of them werecustomized solution have to be addressed by the initially cost-estimated. Figure 4 shows theproduct management team. items estimated by the front-door team, bro- ken down by calendar month and project area.Similar to the first case, only one in every two Note that only 46.2% of the requests (i.e.,requests will be approved by the client based on 465 requests) were approved for delivery andthe estimates provided. eventually transitioned to delivery. Many ofFigure 3 depicts how these requests were planned the items transitioned have either been deliv-and estimated, before going back to the customer ered or are currently being developed. Givenfor approval. that the front-door process was put in place just over a year ago, the feedback receivedThe requests originate with the customer-fac- thus far from the business and Scrum teamsing project managers who hand them off to has been positive. There is an overwhelmingthe product management team. The product feeling within the business that this planningmanagement team prioritizes the requests by process is more transparent, relatively accu-liaising with the project managers. These requests rate and reliable than the planning processare fed into the Scrum of Scrums as research previously in place.spikes for estimation. They are then picked upby Scrum teams at least two Sprints (over two • Case Two: Before this planning process was introduced, several customers were unhappyweekly Sprints) in advance. with the turnaround time of their requests.Once the research spike is played in a Sprint, the One key customer was in a state of highteam proposes a high-level solution and relative escalation. After nine months of following thisestimate that is passed back to customers through planning process, along with other Agile meth-the project management team. Where necessary, odology compliance improvements, many of these customers have openly stated that theirScrum of Scrum Process Customer 1 Customer 2 Scrum teams estimate the Scrum of requests as research spikes and provide relative Scrums estimates. Customer 3Figure 3 cognizant 20-20 insights 3
  4. 4. Front-Door Request Estimates 30 25 Number of Projects 20 15 10 5 May 2012 0 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 Project Areas Figure 4 response times for estimation have improved same time. If not handled effectively, this multi- significantly. As a testimony to the success tasking set of activities puts pressure on the team of this Agile planning and distracts them from delivering their Sprint Organizations must process, the key customer commitments. evolve to adjust who was in a state of high Because of this problem, this is an area where alert has now left red-alert planning techniques status. a wide range of hybridization has occurred. to fit their governance However, as demonstrated in this white paper, Gaining Agile Momentum organizations must evolve to adjust planning structures, culture techniques to fit their governance structures, Planning and estimation and risk profiles in a have often been contro- culture and risk profiles in a manner that manner that increases versial areas for organi- increases standardization without ignoring the principles of the Agile Manifesto. There is no one-standardization without zations following Agile, size-fits-all solution and therefore organizations Waterfall or iterative ignoring the principles methods. In particular, the can’t take the cookie-cutter approach to address of the Agile Manifesto. key issues of predictabil- this challenge. ity and standardization It is clear that an organization has to inspect and come up time and again. This gets exacerbated adapt to fine-tune the planning process, before in a multi-project, multi-team environment where getting it right. This can be achieved only through teams are expected not only to work on multiple able leadership and support from an Agile coach projects simultaneously, but to estimate the with experience in Agile transformation projects. requests and revert to the product owners at the About the Author Premkumar Lakshminarayanan is a Scrum Master in Cognizant’s Agile Center of Excellence within its Advanced Solutions Practice. He can be reached at Premkumar.Lakshminarayanan@cognizant.com | LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/ in/premkumarl | Twitter: https://twitter.com/PremkumarL. cognizant 20-20 insights 4
  5. 5. About CognizantCognizant (NASDAQ: CTSH) is a leading provider of information technology, consulting, and business process out-sourcing services, dedicated to helping the world’s leading companies build stronger businesses. Headquartered inTeaneck, New Jersey (U.S.), Cognizant combines a passion for client satisfaction, technology innovation, deep industryand business process expertise, and a global, collaborative workforce that embodies the future of work. With over 50delivery centers worldwide and approximately 150,400 employees as of September 30, 2012, Cognizant is a member ofthe NASDAQ-100, the S&P 500, the Forbes Global 2000, and the Fortune 500 and is ranked among the top performingand fastest growing companies in the world. Visit us online at www.cognizant.com or follow us on Twitter: Cognizant. World Headquarters European Headquarters India Operations Headquarters 500 Frank W. Burr Blvd. 1 Kingdom Street #5/535, Old Mahabalipuram Road Teaneck, NJ 07666 USA Paddington Central Okkiyam Pettai, Thoraipakkam Phone: +1 201 801 0233 London W2 6BD Chennai, 600 096 India Fax: +1 201 801 0243 Phone: +44 (0) 20 7297 7600 Phone: +91 (0) 44 4209 6000 Toll Free: +1 888 937 3277 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7121 0102 Fax: +91 (0) 44 4209 6060 Email: inquiry@cognizant.com Email: infouk@cognizant.com Email: inquiryindia@cognizant.com©­­ Copyright 2012, Cognizant. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by anymeans, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the express written permission from Cognizant. The information contained herein issubject to change without notice. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.