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To Increase Agility, Look to Your Fuzzy Front End

Presentation Abstract One of the most important outcomes of a successful agile practice is higher speed. But to an agilist, speed doesn’t come from just moving faster. It’s a result of building teams and processes that better map to the reality of how time cycles impact the organization. You’re not just moving faster: you’re moving more accurately. The result is greater speed and more intelligent, adaptive output. We expect these outcomes in agile teams, but the larger goal is to realize them in the organization. Unfortunately, we often reach boundaries in the organization at which agile principles seem to no longer apply, or they translate poorly to outcomes. This is frustrating, but it is also an opportunity for improvement. One of the most immediate suspect areas is in business planning upstream of the development effort. This is where decision makers are constantly assessing risk and benefits, evaluating which needs to push to development, and deciding how and when to commit. This is the fuzzy front end. One problem with the fuzzy front end is that it rarely operates with the type of disciplined, decisive cadence that we embrace in agile development. Proposals and ideas often spend months in the fuzzy front end before value priorities are decided and commitment is achieved. It represents a huge portfolio of potential value that is as far away from delivery as any work can be. Yet it is the very decisions made during this phase of work that frame the work to come. If value decisions and cadence aren’t in alignment with our agile capability, the benefits of agile are compromised right from the start. Fortunately, it is exactly because the fuzzy front end represents the earliest opportunity for an organization’s work to become more agile that it offers such a powerful opportunity for improvement. During this presentation, Chris will: - Report data about the most commonly used criteria for prioritizing the business value of projects - Explain how planning processes outside of IT preemptively set the stage for success or failure - Propose better frameworks for upstream planning, such as Cost of Delay and Integrated Planning - Discuss business cases for more lightweight planning inside and outside of IT - Relate examples of enterprise organizations which radically increased overall agility by improving their fuzzy front end Bio: Chris is a product director and curriculum designer for ASPE's Techtown Labs, a firm which delivers classes and coaching on Agile, DevOps and software engineering topics. He is responsible for designing and evangelizing ASPE’s technology innovation curriculum. He has overseen the delivery of enterprise learning solutions on many technology topics, including DevOps, software engineering, agile practices, information security, and big data analysis and engineering. He has also served as ASPE’s Director of Enterprise Communication, and is a certified PMP with fifteen years of real-world project experience in corporate learning, communication, and creative strategy. His clients include many business training companies and government agencies, including Cisco Systems, Johnson & Johnson, Harvard University, Coca-Cola, Department of Homeland Security, Hilton Hotels and many others.

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