Slowly But Surely

So I inherited this big mess of a program about 5 months ago. Ever been in that situation? Where you’ve been given the reins of a project or program, along with a sympathetic look that says “better you than me. Good luck”? Well, I’ve never been one to turn away from a challenge (or in this case, a heaping pile of… “challenges”). In a nutshell, the salesforce of a big pharma company want to access their sales info via mobile and web apps. The stakeholders are using cutting-edge technology in the form of SAP HANA and MicroStrategy, and they’ve been going at it for a while, using that wonderful waterfall development methodology. The stakeholders have a $17MM budget. In the beginning, as parts of the program started to unravel, the stakeholders would just throw more money onto the “fire” (“oh, we are a couple of months behind where we should be on the program timeline? Our lead developer went on maternity leave and nobody else has her skillset? Have some more money.”) But eventually the stakeholders got tired of wasting time and money, and decided to try to fix the problems instead. And that’s where I entered the picture.

I couldn’t change the program from waterfall to Agile and Scrum mid-stream, but I was able to convince the Product Owner and stakeholders to let me take a subset of functionality and deliver that with Agile and Scrum. And surprise, surprise, surprise, after a couple of two week sprints, the functionality that we delivered in those sprints was the best bit of news that the Product Owner and stakeholders had on the project in over 2 years. Functionality delivered on time with no delays, and with 82% LESS defects. And at least for this subset of functionality, we’re having multiple Sprint Retrospective meetings, assessing what went right, what went wrong, what to never do again, and shout outs. I’ve had them agree on the top 3 things to improve after each sprint, and develop an action plan to address those three things as well as to track how effective those actions were in terms of improving the team’s collaboration, performance, etc. Since at least half of the development team members delivering this subset of functionality are part of the overall development team, they’ve taken the action plan to the overall development team and had them try to incorporate the action plan into the activities of the overall development team. The Product Owner and stakeholders have definitely taken notice, because now, the activities still being delivered via waterfall have now improved!

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