As a result of our highly diverse business environment, we can find ourselves engaged in a broad range of projects. Trying to fulfil all of the various demands that they can present with either a dedicated Agile or Waterfall approach is not a truly viable solution.
Combining the best of both worlds
Our solution to the challenge was to combine both methodologies. Selecting a few key Agile ceremonies and working them together with critical elements of the more traditional Waterfall approach. As a quick overview our approach looks a something like this:
- Gantt charts produced during the quotation process display high-level tasks against a predicted timeline with the required resources at each stage.
- These charts reflect the requirements, design, development and test structure of the software development lifecycle.
- JIRA by Atlassian is used to record these high-level tasks as long-term ‘epics’, ensuring that the backlog reflects the projects key milestones.
- Epics are broken down into relevant short-term tasks which are then assigned an estimation of effort and ordered according to their level priority.
- The total value of all these estimates should correspond to the original estimates outlined in the initial Gantt chart.
- Projects are delivered in a series of two-week sprints where the goal is to deliver functionality. It is during these sprints that the Agile ceremonies are integrated.
- Daily stand-up meetings open communication between team members to ensure that there is an understanding of current activity and provide an opportunity for potential blockages to be discussed.
- Sprint reviews offer team members the opportunity to showcase what they have been able to accomplish throughout each sprint.
- Retrospectives encourage self-review, asking questions such as “Were we realistic with our expectations?”, “What could we have done better?” and just as importantly “What did we do well?”
Measuring Success Accurately and Consistently
To ensure compliance with our hybrid approach, we have defined and implemented a set of factors that we believe have to be fulfilled to ensure project success.
These factors are measured using a Red-Amber-Green (RAG) traffic light system, which outlines the criteria for each degree of adherence and provides a framework for monitoring the health of each project. Should this status fall out of green, actions are agreed upon to bring the project back on track in terms of the criteria.
Managing the Portfolio
To ensure that we don’t lose sight of the overall state of affairs, we have implemented a method to ensure active management of our project portfolio.
- All projects, regardless of whether they are active, closed or pending start, are recorded in a centralised list to maintain clarity and create a single version of the truth.
- All inflight projects are evaluated weekly where the objective is to ensure a common and consistent view of project statuses and that there is an agreement on necessary issue resolutions and risk mitigations.
- In instances where a red or amber RAG status is issued, potential actions to address any underlying issues are agreed upon. Each action is assigned to the most appropriate member of staff to introduce a sense of responsibility to help ensure a prompt resolution.
We generally work to the waterfall model when developing high integrity systems. This is a sequential design process, often used in software development, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of Conception, Initiation, Analysis, Design, Construction, Testing and Maintenance. It is a proven system for avoiding costly after-the-fact changes.
We also apply an agile development methodology for prototyping activities. This is based on the principles of iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams.
We will generally use the same tools as our client.
We will always deliver, no matter what technical difficulties may arise during the course of a project. We have a 100% success rate.
Generally we will hand over, subject to contract:
- Source Code
- Requirements Documentation
- Design Documentation
- Test Specifications
- Test results
We also supply User Manuals and provide training as required.
Where the requirements and/or specifications are suitably well defined, we are happy to provide a Fixed Price quotation for work. This provides you with a number of benefits:
- Zircon’s commitment to the job
- No surprise costs
- Staged payments linked to tangible deliverables
Time and Materials
Where things are less clear we work on a T&M basis, until the point that both parties feel confident that a fixed price quote can be produced.
By combining T&M pricing with good project management methods, this model provides the flexibility to adapt to evolving circumstances without having to negotiate new pricing each time a change arises.
Disciplined project management is required by both parties, but it enables you to effectively manage the project risk and control costs.
We generally hand over all IPR at the end of all bespoke development projects. This means that ownership is entirely yours and that nobody else can benefit from the development work you have commissioned.