first_imgIf you truly want to achieve faster product delivery, the key is to embrace something that most companies can’t stand: uncertainty. Alex Adamopoulos, the founder and CEO of Inc. 500 IT consulting and education business Emergn, explains why.Editor’s note: This article is an extract from the Emergn Value, Flow, Quality® Education Program. For information on how you can receive more tips and training on Agile and Lean principles, visit Emergn.com. There are a lot of reasons — some justified, others less so — for why growing B2B SaaS companies resist the push toward embracing agile development methodologies. One of those factors is the requirement that companies embrace something else in the process: Uncertainty. In my experience, many businesses don’t operate well in uncertain environments. Their internal systems typically militate against unpredictability, and entrepreneurs seem to become increasingly unwilling to expose their business to risk as the company grows. Of course, the problem with approaching scale that way is that faster product delivery requires efficient end-to-end product flow, and that efficiency can’t be achieved if your business is perpetually bogged down by pre-development approval processes or unnecessary work queues. Simply put, by focusing only on the certainties within development, we miss some of the easiest wins in reducing cycle time — an area that product development flow expert Don Reinertsen calls “the fuzzy front end.”Why Do Queues Form and How Can You Reduce Them?Managing queues requires being able to identify their existence in the first place. The first step in doing that is to make your work in progress (WIP) visible. Constraining WIP stops queues from forming at crucial points within the process because it ensures that work is “pulled’ only when capacity is available. This will allow you to know when queues form and help you build-in an element of spare capacity that will enable you to attack and eliminate them immediately. Batch size reduction is another key practice for minimizing queues, reducing cycle time, accelerating feedback, and, thus, lowering overall risk. Since few software development departments are currently aware of their batch sizes (which are normally very large), this is also an area of that can be easily improved upon. cost cycle time chartLastly, overlapping the various activities in software development — analysis, development, and testing, for example — by working on several phases simultaneously is a powerful way to accelerate cycle time. Many agile methods are based around this approach, which ensures that each team possesses the entire skillset it needs to work on a given batch, while also allowing management to monitor external dependencies to minimize queues around approval, feedback, and any specialist knowledge that may be required.What Should Your Business Consider Doing Differently?Very few (if any) board members of software executives have ever stood up in a meeting, slammed their fist on the table, and announced: “We need to go slower and we need to raise our costs!” So, why would you do anything to bloat your product development efforts and slow down your end-to-end flow? The answer, of course, is that software companies don’t choose to be slow and more expensive than they need to be. They choose something else — something we mistakenly think is important: Certainty. How can you avoid doing that? Here are four simple tips to help you get past the concept of “certainty” and instead embrace uncertainty.4 Tips to Help You Stop Obsessing Over Certainty and Embrace Uncertainty, InsteadProject Card imageStart by jotting down every active or recently completed project you can think of. Create a single index card for that work, and write the project’s name at the top. Include large, long-running projects as well as small changes that only took a few days.Now, pick the cards you’ve created one by one and write on the left a list of all on-time metrics that you know the project has defined. Typically you may find a fixed delivery date or an expectation of how long exactly the project will take; list any deadlines or milestones referred. If there are none, leave the space blank.Next, go through all the cards and list any reasons why the project required on-time delivery, what dictated the deadline selected, how the delivery date was established, etc. If the piece of work had no on-time measures, list why there didn’t need to be any.Finally, arrange all the cards on the table and group them together looking at the left column – the projects and pieces of work with explicit time-related expectations against the ones where none were defined. How did the split work out? How many projects did you find with time-related measures? How many of your projects lacked them. Looking more carefully
at the projects with a time-related measures explore the right column, how relevant are the reasons listed? Are they customer-focused or internally focused?Time and time again we find that organizations expect certainty of delivery for their projects by specifying strict deadlines. In many cases, however, these deadlines are completely artificial and have no ties back to the real customer needs. Now, we’re not advocating that you eliminate all deadlines, nor that you tell all of your employees to chill out and go with the flow. But we do recommend that companies look at what “certainty” really means — the cost you pay for it and the benefits that could come from daring to stray from “certainty.” cost cycle time graph 2The Potentially Powerful Impact of UncertaintyTruthfully, uncertainty is the heart of IT. It is a creative, knowledge-based discipline in which problems are continually changing and where most tasks are non-repetitive. The key point to remember is this: Giving up certainty does not mean giving up predictability. When companies embrace uncertainty and begin to implement the tools that lead to faster delivery, they normally see gains in every area. There’s no guarantee of course, but because your business manages its flow better and exposes unnecessary queues, it actually creates more predictability and, therefore, certainty. This is why many passionate advocates of agile methodologies claim there’s nothing to lose by adopting agile. The good news is that once you’ve come to the realization that certainty is wrong, you’ve already cleared the biggest hurdle. From there, breaking down the problem and discovering smaller batches of value to deliver is actually a fairly straightforward process — one that will only make it easier for your business to maintain its rapid growth trajectory. Looking for more tips and training on adopting Lean and Agile principles? Visit Emergn.com.   Photo by: Dennis BrekkeAddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterShare to PrintPrintShare to EmailEmailShare to MoreAddThislast_img read more