It’s time to panic if you are in software development and you don’t have a clear path to continuous delivery – which means weekly or daily software releases. And if you roll your eyes and think that’s just for Amazon and Google and that doesn’t apply to you – you are completely missing the point.
And surprising as it may sound, this actually starts with Agile software delivery methods.
People have been talking about Agile as a way to manage software development for a long time. In many respects people see it as the butterfly where waterfall models were the caterpillar. An inevitable evolution where the result is completely different, and better, than what was there before.
The good news is that with rigor and discipline, Agile is much better, and with some of the newer models of “continuous delivery” where some people publish new software every day – or in increasing cases, hundreds or even thousands of times a day (Amazon), it’s a competitive differentiator.
The bad news is that transforming to true Agile takes rigor, discipline, coaching, a roadmap, and more. There are entire companies like LeadingAgile who help companies realize the vision and promise of Agile. One of the things the LeadingAgile people have seen is that it takes more than one person with a budget to make the change – everyone needs to be bought in, like a single collective soul in their commitment to the vision.
Here’s the rub – Agile is a little bit like the process reengineering movement of the 90s in that people see some boxes, chevrons, and arrows on a page and think it’s easy – they can do it. Shooting baskets is pretty easy – but there’s a reason LeBron James makes $22.96 million a year more at it than I do.
The beauty of both process (as well as capability modeling) and Agile are that they help make things clear and simple – but getting to that clarity takes skill and hard work and experience, so many people fail because they underestimate the work.
Which is where most organizations are today.
Companies have gotten to a certain point with Agile and while they aren’t happy they aren’t at the panic stage. They should be at panic level for three reasons, one more obvious than the other two.
- Maintenance costs are skyrocketing and defect rates are growing. The folks at LeadingAgile will tell you this – too much is being spent on legacy systems built in the waterfall days. They are architected for a bygone era and they are spending money to maintain them in a way that is not sustainable. It’s a bit of a boiling frog phenomenon – it has gotten really bad, but it has happened gradually, so people don’t realize just how bad it is. That is a painful, but probably pretty obvious message to a lot of people. Many people are asking for help, but even now they may underestimate the magnitude of transformation that is needed. Just try to get a caterpillar to fly.
- Continuous Delivery Applies to Everyone. While there are some features/functions that need frequent updates, and there is plenty of information about the parallel A/B, or “split” testing of production systems. Those are often the features with a high velocity of change required. Many of those are in fact limited to the Googles and Amazons of the world. While those high velocity features are fully inside the Venn diagram circle of Continuous Delivery, the Continuous Delivery circle is much bigger than that. Continuous Delivery is about breaking big requirements into little ones, reducing risk, removing dependencies, massively automating testing, and it applies to all features and functions, DevOps, and so forth whether customer facing or not. This takes pretty major organizational change, and Brad Power and Andy Singleton have an article in the works about that (with input from Joe Weinman and Roger Camrass), and I will post the link when that’s out.
- Experience data is coming and it is a gi-normous amount of new data. This is a huge wave of data. When you go from transaction level CRM data to experience level data, it’s a massive change in development, sales, marketing, customer, service, everything. Organizations aren’t ready for this if they don’t have their agile/continuous delivery house in order. There’s a lot of talk about Digital Transformation and Customer Experience Transformation these days. It’s real. People are starting to collect orders of magnitudes more data about their customers and their experience because of GPS and smart mobile devices and things like FitBits and the Disney MagicBand. So where there might have been five clicks or transactions over the course of a week or an experience that informed “personalized” marketing efforts – tomorrow there will be 5,000 pieces of information every day about every person. This isn’t going to happen slowly, like Agile has. It is already happening, and it’s happening fast. Most companies will need to be part of this or they will be swept away by this wave.
The silver lining of all of this is that things are about to get a lot better for customers, in little ways and in big ways. There are enormous opportunities for technology to improve our quality of life. There remain some big issues about privacy and “who owns the data” but one of the good things about capitalism and democracy is that these things tend to work themselves out after a few bumps and mistakes.
For most organizations – this is a wake up call. Get a plan. Build a roadmap. Build the chrysalis for your transformation.