Enterprise Applications

Agile Thinking for Enterprise Applications

Submitted by Jennie Franke

Balancing delivery of work and taking time for process improvement is a common struggle for IT groups. How do you prioritize innovation when you have a backlog of work and limited resources? For EA, we were able to leverage incorporating some agile methodologies to address these challenges by applying Sprint Planning and Retrospectives, as well as Daily Scrum Stand-ups into the delivery process for MyDay System Integrations.

Our management team is currently exploring how to take the successes for that effort and apply them to the daily work required to support enhancements, upgrades and other system changes. Although still in discovery, Enterprise Applications is hoping to transition these achievements to the larger department.

Focus on Delivery – by breaking out work into smaller tasks, the Integration Teams were more successful in delivery of code within the committed timeframes. This helped the team understand what it would take to deliver complete solutions and feel confident in meeting those commitments. The planning work was done up front, instead of being worked out in parallel with the execution of development.

Team mentality – daily standups built a support system within the scrum teams, allowing troubleshooting of blockers and other challenges. This reduced time spent “spinning” to find a path forward, redirecting the developer resources towards delivery of code.

Transparency – by planning work at the task level and breaking that work down into deliverables that could be completed in a day, the team was able to see if they were on track, where there were challenges or blockers, and adjust or reset expectations as necessary.

Agility – the team was able to adjust their focus when necessary. Whether it was pulling from a backlog because blockers prevented the commitments from being completed or refining the priority for the next sprint due to a change in program priority, the team was able to be responsive to these challenges without it being disruptive.

Applying these to the larger EA department won’t come without its challenges:

  • How do we fulfill key roles such as Product Owner, Technical Lead and Scrum Master when those skills sets don’t fit in an obvious way with our current staffing structure?
  • How do we balance planned work with unplanned work such as service requests and break/fix tickets?
  • When does task breakout planning stop adding value and how do you define the threshold?
  • How do we create value for our customers with limited resources while reducing risk?

Like ITIL, Agile isn’t “one size fits all”. Enterprise Applications is working through understanding how we can use agile and lean thinking to improve understanding of team velocity and responsiveness to changing customer dynamics.