As these organisations continue to invest in their digital infrastructure, many will be faced with development requirements to support their management systems, albeit Enterprise Asset Management, Enterprise Resource Planning, Human Resource or any other, and will be faced with the question “Should we be managing the development using either Agile or traditional waterfall methods?” To better answer this question firstly we need to understand what Agile Working is.
Waterfall methods follow sequential processes that flows through tasks until completion, Agile development methods follow an incremental, collaborative approach that engages stakeholders across the business. Projects are broken down into smaller manageable tasks that can be implemented, reviewed and improved throughout the development cycle.
Agile methods are known to deliver rapid and incremental changes to a system through this collaborative approach and bring together IT teams and the end users, such as field service engineers, along with business process, technology and tools. These teams work together to deliver tasks and all guidelines are focussed on using these people and the business process to deliver the desired outcome.
But why use it?
Agile methodologies tend to have less overheads, fewer project management activities and in some instances fewer gates and controlled processes to undertake before starting development. Meaning it provides a more streamlined and slimmed down process for the implementation and management of new systems to support utility projects, such as maintenance programs for wind farms, gas storage facilities, new 5G infrastructure and the management of sewage plants.
By removing these overheads an organisation can increase the throughput of development delivered. Upgrades that once took 10 weeks from project planning, proposal and PO through to deployment, have the potential to be deployed in the 4th week.
As the nature of the development is collaborative, agile working will improve the quality of the requirement too, ensuring what is delivered is what the business and the users require, and as it’s incremental, the stages of development are faster paced. Other benefits include greater visibility, improved correlation and flexibility, and the team, end users and developers can contribute to the design dependant on their skills and experience.
What are the risks & how do you overcome them?
Agile working does require a level of maturity, skill and good working relationships amongst the team. Those involved will need to be knowledgeable of agile practices and processes.
Transitioning away from full project management with defined plans, process and data review means the team will need to be fully versed in these areas to ensure the project’s success.
Consideration also needs to be given to if the development includes big feature or small changes. It is easier to manage small continuous changes with Agile working, development cycles are smaller, easier to test and can be released with minimum impact.
From a procurement and project management perspective, however, there are noticeable impacts rolling out larger features. It is important to manage these developments with all the tools and processes available, such as Epics, when a large body of work is broken down into a number of smaller tasks, and Features, which provide details on how a system should be built.
Understanding the solution design, processes and milestones needs are crucial to success. One mitigation for consideration in successful delivery of larger features is for the business users to separate large and small features during planning, allowing developers to focus development cycles specifically on large features only.
Other notable changes to Agile ways of working in large industries is the procurement process. Usual practice is to deliver a detailed statement of work which articulates the scope, duration and delivery date and total cost for each project. This is less viable with Agile. The business needs to consider the strategic objectives required over a period of time and tie this to the contract.
This Agile approach of working comes with many benefits and potential cost savings but will also be a considerable change to the existing procurement practices, planning and business engagement. If considering moving to agile delivery organisations need to consider if they have the right maturity, skills, appetite, processes and, importantly, relationships.
Tanya Pierre-James is a Sales Account Executive at Peacock Engineering Ltd. With over a decade of experience, Tanya specialises in helping organisations deliver long-term, strategic Enterprise Asset Management strategies.
Peacock Engineering Ltd is a specialist in implementing bespoke enterprise asset management and field service management solutions for some of the UK’s leading utility, FM, logistics, pharmaceutical and manufacturing organisations.