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Agile in the IAE: Where We Started and Where We Are Now

Since beginning the transition to a common services platform almost a year and a half ago, the IAE has been working to steadily improve its agile practices. As with any agile development effort, each iteration is a learning process for the teams, and the lessons learned and sharing of knowledge has become an integral part of the process.  

Where We Started

IAE’s adoption of and transition to agile began in 2014 as part of the overall modernization effort. The “official” adoption of agile, including scrum, occurred in the third quarter, with the actual transition from a waterfall approach to agile occurring in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter of 2015, IAE moved to Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) and began quarterly releases in December, 2014. The first minimum viable product version of the Common Services Platform was also made available to developers through GitHub in June of 2015.

Where We Are

From an agile perspective, and since inception, the team has significantly increased its knowledge of agile through training; to date, close to 25 IAE team members have completed Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) certifications. The IAE program strongly supports extending agile knowledge among all members of the teams, and the agile framework is in place, serving as a guideline for setting expectations. Beginning on Day 1, vendors supporting the development effort have clearly defined expectations, and agile framework-based metrics are periodically monitored and collected with constant adjustments made to support a continuous learning process.

From a team perspective, scrum ceremonies, namely daily scrums and sprint retrospectives,  also play an important part in continuous learning. Scrum masters and product owners use the scrum ceremonies to collect feedback, identify areas that are doing well and identify those areas that are not doing so well. Teams work collaboratively, sharing successes and challenges of the agile process with each other so that everyone can benefit from lessons learned. The teams also develop mitigation strategies and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related) action plans based on agile framework principles.

One of the primary challenges the teams have faced over the past year has been in identifying and working through cross-team development dependencies.  The IAE platform is quite complex, from a technology perspective as well as from a process perspective. While dependencies are often identified during release planning, the intricacies of those dependencies are more clearly defined once the sprint has begun and may impact the schedule. Following each release, a team retrospective is held across the entire program to share the successes and challenges from a team perspective. To better handle the dependencies, IAE is executing on various pre-release planning cross-team grooming sessions to identify the dependencies upfront as much as possible. Teams are working around the clock to understand the nature of these dependencies and come up with robust plan to avoid and any schedule delay in upcoming release.

Because the IAE teams are willing to face the challenges, are willing to come up with new mitigation strategies as needed, and are dedicated to continued learning, agile development is proving to be a successful approach to the IAE’s transition endeavor.  The process is gradually maturing, and every day brings new knowledge to the teams.

 
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