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Effective Queue Management Can Drive Software Business Value

Sticky Notes

Proper prioritization is essential to driving the business value of software. Those working in the trenches need to have a clear understanding of the end goal in order to prioritize their projects appropriately.  With all team members focusing on the same mission to maximize business value from software by optimizing the flow of business value through software development, better decisions can be made throughout the software development lifecycle.

The key element to properly prioritizing projects is effective queue management. On a daily basis, tactical decisions are made at the team level about the prioritization of tasks.  In Donald Reinertsen’s book “The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development,” he offers six principles for creating a value management capability for queue management at the team level:

1. Software development inventory is physically and financially invisible
2. Queues are the root cause of the majority of economic waste in software development
3. Increasing resource utilization increases queues exponentially (but variability only increases queues linearly)
4. Optimum queue size is an economic trade-off
5. Don’t control capacity utilization, control queue size
6. Use cumulative flow diagrams to monitor queues

Often decisions made by IT are not based on delivering business value, but on the difficulty of the project, the resources required or who is shouting the loudest to push their project to the top of the queue. This needs to change. IT departments need to prioritize their projects based on the business value they will deliver to the organization. Effective queue management is an essential component to making the right tactical decisions that will lead to maximizing the flow of business value in software development efforts.

What drives your decision-making process when determining what project to put in the queue next?

Mike Harris

Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00
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The Kanban Game

Success with leanAt DCG, we're big proponents of finding new ways to approach problems. One problem we often run into is that, in general, people don't always retain what they have learned - shocking, right? No, of course not. We all know that this is a common issue. But, that issue becomes a much bigger one when we are talking about lean.

Lean requires its users to understand, retain and abide by its guiding principles. Countless times we have encountered organizations who are struggling with lean, and the main cause of their problem is that they're not appropriately applying the principles of the approach. So, how do we overcome that hurdle?

We're actually finding success with a game! Yes, you read that correctly - a game. We've been helping organizations understand and retain lean principles through the use of the Kanban Game. The game runs a kanban simulation, providing a hands-on experience with lean principles, which ultimately helps everyone to fully process the information for future, ongoing use.

We'd love to share the game with you and your organization. Interested? More information is available here.

We're excited to have found a fun - and incredibly successful - way to help teach these principles for sustained success, and we can't wait to share it!


Written by Default at 05:00

Michael D. Harris to Present at ITFMA's 2015 Financial World of IT Conference


Interested in IT financial management? Then don't miss this year's IT Financial Management Association (ITFMA) conference in Pittsburgh, April 13-17. The Financial World of IT conference is a must-attend event for those interested in improving their IT financial management capabilities.

Mike Harris will be presenting this year, urging businesses to utilize a "show me the money" approach to software development.

His presentation, "Using Lean Principles to Prioritize and Track Financial Value in Software Development" is part of the "IT Chargeback, Showback and Expense Management" conference agenda. He will share simple techniques for optimizing the flow of economic value and bringing economic value metrics into the tactical decision-making of the software development process. Be there on Friday, April 17th at 10:30am to listen in!

For more information and to download Mr. Harris’ latest presentations, visit www.valuevisualization.com.

Written by Default at 05:00
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Is Agile Growing Up to Be Lean?

Sue SMS-2063a _cropAfter attending the very well-supported DSDM Agile Business Conference in London recently, it seems more and more organisations are now actively engaged in Agile programmes. As a result, the debate has moved on. Some of the naïve Agile evangelism is gone (or at least muted), and in its place, I am pleased to see that we are beginning to discuss the real business issues around software development. 

I was particularly interested in the closing conference keynote from Dan North. I liked his description of a six-stage Agile journey, which went as follows, if I have remembered it correctly:

  1. First, the people break
  2. Second, the tools break
  3. Third, governance breaks
  4. Fourth, management breaks
  5. Fifth, finance breaks
  6. Finally, the organization breaks

What I understood him to mean by this is that everything has to be re-thought to fully exploit the benefits of Agile. And one of the hardest issues to overcome is governance. Once you get over that hurdle, management, finance and the organizational structure follow.

Governance is the point where we leave the realm of software development and start talking about the organization. Governance is about what the business expects from its investment in applications development and maintenance, not what the developers want from the business.

This is why I believe developer-centric Agile finds governance to be such a barrier – good governance means managing applications development and maintenance with the same discipline as every other business activity. It’s not about coding or “being creative,” but about delivering value for money. Developers should ask business managers to define what they mean by “value,” but they cannot expect a blank cheque on the promise of delivering it. The business will still want to know how long it will take and what it will cost. So, you still need good estimating practice – something that is still poorly done in many organisations, whether waterfall or Agile.

Earlier, on day two of the conference, a keynote from Dean Leffingwell on the Scaled Agile Framework married Agile techniques with Lean principles (as does DCG’s own Agile architecture). This seems to me a more mature way of looking at Agile. The principles of Agile arise from the activity of software development – sure, they can be more widely applied, but if the end-game is business value, it is better to go back to the underlying Lean principles of value flow and customer-focus. Agile may help you get better results, but without the Lean focus on value, they may come at a cost you can’t afford.

Getting value for money from IT is something many organisations have always struggled with, largely because measuring the value of software is not an easy thing to do (whereas measuring the cost is).

Nevertheless, if you want to deliver value from software, you need to manage the delivery of value. And if you need to manage it, you need to measure it, because I don’t know any other way of truly understanding what’s going on, let alone having any real control over it.

So, we end up with those two hardy perennials: measurement (or let’s call it “governance data”) and estimating. Maybe I look at these topics with a biased eye, but it seems to me the case for doing these things better has never been stronger.

Sue Rule
DCG-SMS, Marketing Director

Written by Sue Rule at 05:00
Categories :

"It's frustrating that there are so many failed software projects when I know from personal experience that it's possible to do so much better - and we can help." 
- Mike Harris, DCG Owner

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