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User Centered Agile Dev
at NASA - One Groups
Path to Better Software
Jay Trimble
NASA Ames Research Center
!

For Balanced Team
11-3-13
My Background
• Missions	


• NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston	

• Shuttle Mission Control, Payloads	


• Jet Propulsion Lab	


Space Radar Lab-1 Ops Director

• Robotic - Voyager Neptune	

• Shuttle - Space Radar Lab, Lead Ops Director	


•

Current	


• Mission Operations & Ground Data System
Manager, Resource Prospector Lunar Rover

Internship in Mission Control 	

(A long time ago)
My Background
• Software Technology	

• Human Centered

Computing for Mars
Rovers	


• Founded User Centered
Technology Group	


• User centered

technologies for mission
control
One Story of Agile at NASA
• This is a bottom up story of how a group at
NASA applied agile methods to software
development for mission control	


• This was approved, but not initiated by,
management
The Project
• Our task was to build an architecture for
mission control user applications, the
primary focus being on developing
interaction paradigms and technology for
user-composable software	

!

• See the results at https://github.com/nasa/mct
The Collaboration
• Design and Development Team at NASA
Ames	


• The Customer	

• Mission Control Users at NASA	

• Using Participatory Design, we created an
integrated team that included customer
representation
Issues and Mandates
• Some customers want a new product,
others do not	


• The product must have new capability, but
must also not be disruptive within the
organization	


• Functional and visual connection to
legacy product
The Journey	

• We began with a six month software
delivery cycle	


• By iteratively fixing issues, we got the
delivery cycle down to three weeks	


• It took close to two years to complete the
transition
Where we started
• Four sixmonth
deliverables	

• One User
Experience
Spec

Module 1

Subsystem1

Subsystem2

6 Months

Subsystem3

6 Months

Subsystem

6 Months

6 Months
Issues we faced
• Long delivery cycle	

• Difficult to manage feature prioritization and development, integration
and testing	

• Progress invisible to customer, lack of meaningful ongoing customer
interaction to drive design	

• Mismatch in expectations between design/dev team and customer	

• Difficult for the development team to know state of progress relative
to goals	

• Deliveries focus on subsystems rather than meaningful end user
functionality	

• Two-year final deliverable created a tendency to defer key issues
Initiating Internal Change
• Fix the problems iteratively, without a broad
proclamation of methodology, i.e. “we are going to
be agile” or “we are going to be “lean”	

• Just fix the problems

jtrimble2@gmail.com
First Step - Six Week
Cycle
• We took the six
month cycle and
divided it into
smaller pieces	

• This was a start,
but still left many
issues

It 1

It 2

It 3

It 4

6
6
6
6
Weeks Weeks Weeks Weeks

It x
Incremental Improvements
• Six week delivery cycle
• Prioritization of work at the start of each sixweek iteration
• User Experience spec for every iteration due
one week before iteration start
• UE testing and design session during coding
period of each iteration
jtrimble2@gmail.com
Six Week Cycle
Demo new features
for QA
UE Specification
Rls
Docs

Stack
Rank
PreStack
Rank 1

PreStack
Rank 2

UE
Spec

Pre-Ship
Review,
exit critera,
customer demo

Eng design &
spec (3 days)

Code (3.5 weeks)

Demo

Test (2 weeks)

PS
Review

Deliver

DeBrief

Kickoff

UE Testing Iteration n-1 (delivered s/w)
UE Design/Testing Iteration n+1 (paper)
Develop Test Plan

JIRA Updates/Priorities
Coding/UE Spec Revisions/Daily Acceptance Test
Iteration n-1

Iteration n

Iteration n+1
Almost There
• Better, but still not where we need to be
• Six week iterations are focused on
subsystem capabilities, they lack user-focus
• Customers see progress every six-weeks,
this is not often enough

jtrimble2@gmail.com
Next Steps
• Identify the issues	

• After each iteration we had a team de-brief where we identified
issues and discussed fixes	

• Fixing the issues, one step at a time	

• Some issues we fixed with policy changes based on team de-briefs	

• Many of the changes were bottom up within the team, such as 	

• Daily communication between user experience designers and
the customer as new features rolled out and QA testing of
features on rollout, 	

• Some changes were top down, such as the length of an iteration
(or sprint) and the release cycle
Agile
• We shortened the cycle to three weeks	

• Replaced discrete events, with integrated interactions	

• Integrated strategic and tactical into our ranking process	

• Each iteration had clear purpose, goals, ranked priorities	

• Daily Build, Iterations, Release	

• Strategic road map
Designing with the Users
•

Participatory Design &
Analysis

•

Customers are part of the
design team

•

Designers facilitate,
customers are the domain
experts

•

Shared ownership
Design Artifacts
•

Triggers/Results

•

Really big picture

•

Big Picture

•

Task Flows
•

Blue sky

•

Real world
Design Artifacts

•

Task Objects

•

User Objects

•

Windows
Agile Cycle
• Nightly Build	

• Iteration
delivered
every 3
weeks	

• Release
every 3
months

Release to Mission
Control User Test
Community

Release to Mission
Control User Test
Community

Release to Mission
Control User Test
Community

Release to Mission
Control Ops

Release n
Iteration 1

Iteration 2

3 Weeks

Iteration 3

6 Weeks

Iteration 4

9 Weeks

12 Weeks

jtrimble2@gmail.com
jay.p.trimble@nasa.gov
The Three-Week Cycle
Agile Development Iteration
Feature
Freeze
(-7 days)

Optional Mid-Iteration
Hackathon tests big
features

Priorities/JIRA
Rankings

Code Freeze
(-3 days)
Pre-Ship
Hackathon
Start 24 hour test (-2 day)
Deliver
to customer

3 Weeks Iteration n
Coding
UE & Tech Spec dates driven by coding dependencies
Issue Tracking Updates/Priorities/Rankings
Nightly Build/Internal testing as features roll out
Daily iteration n
Build to
Customer

Customer
installs
iteration n-1

Test

Customer
acceptance test

User Feedback

Customer verification
of closed JIRA issues

Feature mods/additions,
bug fixes

Customer triages
issues it discovered

Optionally, hot
patch
Iteration n+1
The Release Cycle
Agile Release Into Operations
Release to Mission
Control User test
Community

Release to Mission
Control User test
Community

Release to Mission
Control User test
Community

Customer Feature
Verification

Customer Feature
Verification

Customer Feature
Verification

Iteration 1

Iteration 2

Release to Customer
for Mission Control
Certification

Iteration 4 Bugs/
Usability/More Testing

Iteration 3

Release

3 Weeks

6 Weeks

9 Weeks

Coding/UE Specs
Issue Tracking Updates/Priorities/Rankings
Build/Internal testing as features roll out

12 Weeks
Strategic Road Map
The Team
Traditional

Agile 1

Agile 2*

Developers 5-9

Developers 7

Developers 4

User Experience
Design (2)

User Experience
Design (2)

User Experience
Design (1)

QA/Process
Engineers (2)

QA/Process
Engineers (2)

QA (.5)

Project Manager (1)

Project Manager (1)

Developers rotate
PM role

Principle Investigator
(Part Time)

Principle Investigator Principle Investigator
(Part Time)
(Part Time)

Interns

Interns

Interns

*Reduced Budget
Focus
• Work on issues in order of priority
• Easier said than done
• JIRA/Greenhopper for issue tracking and
ranking
• Developers should know what their priorities are
• Priorities should be achievable
• Don’t over-manage ranking, or over-assign
Where are we?
• There is one, and only one measurement of
progress and that is working

code

• Replace presentations, code line counts and
other management metrics with the nightly build
• For progress relative to strategic and tactical
situation see issue tracking system (we use
JIRA)
Testing
• Internal QA tests features as they roll out
• Our customer tested features daily to provide
feedback
• Our customer used iteration deliveries and
releases for final feature verification
• “Hackathons” tested scaleability in a lab
environment
Some Lessons Learned
• The train leaves the station on time
• A feature that misses one train just gets on
the next one
• This requires frequent departures
• Do not ever delay a shipment unless the
software does not work
It Takes Time
• Our journey was driven by need, i.e. we
addressed issues as they came up, rather
than being driven by a formal methodology
• We iteratively refined our methods over two
years
Lessons Summary
• The measure of progress is working code	

• Work on highest priorities first, avoid the temptation to do the
easier things first	

• Demonstrations, not presentations	

• Customer interaction over extensive documentation	

• Progress always visible, nightly build available	

• The train leaves the station on time, only working features ship	

• Do not delay shipment for features - if a feature is not
ready it goes into the next iteration
!

Conclusion
• There is no one right way to do agile
• Fit and evolve the solution to your
context of work

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User Centered Agile Development at NASA - One Groups Path to Better Software

  • 1. User Centered Agile Dev at NASA - One Groups Path to Better Software Jay Trimble NASA Ames Research Center ! For Balanced Team 11-3-13
  • 2.
  • 3. My Background • Missions • NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston • Shuttle Mission Control, Payloads • Jet Propulsion Lab Space Radar Lab-1 Ops Director • Robotic - Voyager Neptune • Shuttle - Space Radar Lab, Lead Ops Director • Current • Mission Operations & Ground Data System Manager, Resource Prospector Lunar Rover Internship in Mission Control (A long time ago)
  • 4. My Background • Software Technology • Human Centered Computing for Mars Rovers • Founded User Centered Technology Group • User centered technologies for mission control
  • 5. One Story of Agile at NASA • This is a bottom up story of how a group at NASA applied agile methods to software development for mission control • This was approved, but not initiated by, management
  • 6. The Project • Our task was to build an architecture for mission control user applications, the primary focus being on developing interaction paradigms and technology for user-composable software ! • See the results at https://github.com/nasa/mct
  • 7. The Collaboration • Design and Development Team at NASA Ames • The Customer • Mission Control Users at NASA • Using Participatory Design, we created an integrated team that included customer representation
  • 8. Issues and Mandates • Some customers want a new product, others do not • The product must have new capability, but must also not be disruptive within the organization • Functional and visual connection to legacy product
  • 9. The Journey • We began with a six month software delivery cycle • By iteratively fixing issues, we got the delivery cycle down to three weeks • It took close to two years to complete the transition
  • 10. Where we started • Four sixmonth deliverables • One User Experience Spec Module 1 Subsystem1 Subsystem2 6 Months Subsystem3 6 Months Subsystem 6 Months 6 Months
  • 11. Issues we faced • Long delivery cycle • Difficult to manage feature prioritization and development, integration and testing • Progress invisible to customer, lack of meaningful ongoing customer interaction to drive design • Mismatch in expectations between design/dev team and customer • Difficult for the development team to know state of progress relative to goals • Deliveries focus on subsystems rather than meaningful end user functionality • Two-year final deliverable created a tendency to defer key issues
  • 12. Initiating Internal Change • Fix the problems iteratively, without a broad proclamation of methodology, i.e. “we are going to be agile” or “we are going to be “lean” • Just fix the problems jtrimble2@gmail.com
  • 13. First Step - Six Week Cycle • We took the six month cycle and divided it into smaller pieces • This was a start, but still left many issues It 1 It 2 It 3 It 4 6 6 6 6 Weeks Weeks Weeks Weeks It x
  • 14. Incremental Improvements • Six week delivery cycle • Prioritization of work at the start of each sixweek iteration • User Experience spec for every iteration due one week before iteration start • UE testing and design session during coding period of each iteration jtrimble2@gmail.com
  • 15. Six Week Cycle Demo new features for QA UE Specification Rls Docs Stack Rank PreStack Rank 1 PreStack Rank 2 UE Spec Pre-Ship Review, exit critera, customer demo Eng design & spec (3 days) Code (3.5 weeks) Demo Test (2 weeks) PS Review Deliver DeBrief Kickoff UE Testing Iteration n-1 (delivered s/w) UE Design/Testing Iteration n+1 (paper) Develop Test Plan JIRA Updates/Priorities Coding/UE Spec Revisions/Daily Acceptance Test Iteration n-1 Iteration n Iteration n+1
  • 16. Almost There • Better, but still not where we need to be • Six week iterations are focused on subsystem capabilities, they lack user-focus • Customers see progress every six-weeks, this is not often enough jtrimble2@gmail.com
  • 17. Next Steps • Identify the issues • After each iteration we had a team de-brief where we identified issues and discussed fixes • Fixing the issues, one step at a time • Some issues we fixed with policy changes based on team de-briefs • Many of the changes were bottom up within the team, such as • Daily communication between user experience designers and the customer as new features rolled out and QA testing of features on rollout, • Some changes were top down, such as the length of an iteration (or sprint) and the release cycle
  • 18. Agile • We shortened the cycle to three weeks • Replaced discrete events, with integrated interactions • Integrated strategic and tactical into our ranking process • Each iteration had clear purpose, goals, ranked priorities • Daily Build, Iterations, Release • Strategic road map
  • 19. Designing with the Users • Participatory Design & Analysis • Customers are part of the design team • Designers facilitate, customers are the domain experts • Shared ownership
  • 20. Design Artifacts • Triggers/Results • Really big picture • Big Picture • Task Flows • Blue sky • Real world
  • 22. Agile Cycle • Nightly Build • Iteration delivered every 3 weeks • Release every 3 months Release to Mission Control User Test Community Release to Mission Control User Test Community Release to Mission Control User Test Community Release to Mission Control Ops Release n Iteration 1 Iteration 2 3 Weeks Iteration 3 6 Weeks Iteration 4 9 Weeks 12 Weeks jtrimble2@gmail.com jay.p.trimble@nasa.gov
  • 23. The Three-Week Cycle Agile Development Iteration Feature Freeze (-7 days) Optional Mid-Iteration Hackathon tests big features Priorities/JIRA Rankings Code Freeze (-3 days) Pre-Ship Hackathon Start 24 hour test (-2 day) Deliver to customer 3 Weeks Iteration n Coding UE & Tech Spec dates driven by coding dependencies Issue Tracking Updates/Priorities/Rankings Nightly Build/Internal testing as features roll out Daily iteration n Build to Customer Customer installs iteration n-1 Test Customer acceptance test User Feedback Customer verification of closed JIRA issues Feature mods/additions, bug fixes Customer triages issues it discovered Optionally, hot patch Iteration n+1
  • 24. The Release Cycle Agile Release Into Operations Release to Mission Control User test Community Release to Mission Control User test Community Release to Mission Control User test Community Customer Feature Verification Customer Feature Verification Customer Feature Verification Iteration 1 Iteration 2 Release to Customer for Mission Control Certification Iteration 4 Bugs/ Usability/More Testing Iteration 3 Release 3 Weeks 6 Weeks 9 Weeks Coding/UE Specs Issue Tracking Updates/Priorities/Rankings Build/Internal testing as features roll out 12 Weeks
  • 26. The Team Traditional Agile 1 Agile 2* Developers 5-9 Developers 7 Developers 4 User Experience Design (2) User Experience Design (2) User Experience Design (1) QA/Process Engineers (2) QA/Process Engineers (2) QA (.5) Project Manager (1) Project Manager (1) Developers rotate PM role Principle Investigator (Part Time) Principle Investigator Principle Investigator (Part Time) (Part Time) Interns Interns Interns *Reduced Budget
  • 27. Focus • Work on issues in order of priority • Easier said than done • JIRA/Greenhopper for issue tracking and ranking • Developers should know what their priorities are • Priorities should be achievable • Don’t over-manage ranking, or over-assign
  • 28. Where are we? • There is one, and only one measurement of progress and that is working code • Replace presentations, code line counts and other management metrics with the nightly build • For progress relative to strategic and tactical situation see issue tracking system (we use JIRA)
  • 29. Testing • Internal QA tests features as they roll out • Our customer tested features daily to provide feedback • Our customer used iteration deliveries and releases for final feature verification • “Hackathons” tested scaleability in a lab environment
  • 30. Some Lessons Learned • The train leaves the station on time • A feature that misses one train just gets on the next one • This requires frequent departures • Do not ever delay a shipment unless the software does not work
  • 31. It Takes Time • Our journey was driven by need, i.e. we addressed issues as they came up, rather than being driven by a formal methodology • We iteratively refined our methods over two years
  • 32. Lessons Summary • The measure of progress is working code • Work on highest priorities first, avoid the temptation to do the easier things first • Demonstrations, not presentations • Customer interaction over extensive documentation • Progress always visible, nightly build available • The train leaves the station on time, only working features ship • Do not delay shipment for features - if a feature is not ready it goes into the next iteration
  • 33. ! Conclusion • There is no one right way to do agile • Fit and evolve the solution to your context of work