How Second-Wave Agile Practitioners Can Fix a Tarnished Agile Reputation
Interest in Agile development methodologies has increased dramatically in the past decade and has resulted in the increase of training, certification exams and conferences plastering the term on every form of marketing material available and has certainly bolstered the appeal of delivering usable software in a reduced timeframe for less cost. Companies serving both private and federal customers have been jumping on the proverbial bandwagon, doing their best to convince both their customers and their development teams that Agile is the secret ingredient to working smarter and faster but not harder. Add Agile to your development lifecycle, and your end product will seemingly be better as a result. But what does that mean exactly? Many customers and practitioners don’t actually know the answer, which has led to poor implementations and Agile getting a tarnished reputation in some arenas. Dovel’s experience with transitioning from waterfall to Agile has provided us with…

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4 Questions to Consider Before Creating a New IT Training Program
A well-executed IT training program can be an invaluable resource. A strong and thoughtful program can expand the use of a new software or system which increases productivity, efficiency, and consistency. A training program can expand an existing system to new customers to increase revenue or demonstrate a commitment to employee’s professional development, which can increase employee engagement and pride. A program can even explain processes or expectations to smooth pain points and minimize errors. Unfortunately training programs often need to be created very quickly to address a significant problem, fulfill a federal or corporate training requirement, or meet a customer need. Without the appropriate planning and forethought, training programs can be short sighted and reactive, which limits their effectiveness. Due to the lack of structure, these training programs can fail to have a clear focus, contain minimal rigor, or require enormous re-work efforts in order to add new information.

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Successfully Creating Value Added Documentation Using Agile Software Development in Heavily Regulated Environments
When technology supports heavily regulated industries, comprehensive documentation is viewed as a critical IT deliverable that provides evidence of compliance, assists in maintaining continuity of operations, and demonstrates transparency to key stakeholders. However, requirements for comprehensive documentation can present a major challenge for adoption of Agile principles because they require resources to be diverted from the Agile team’s primary focus: delivering software that achieves end user adoption. Does this mean that Agile methodologies are incompatible with IT development, engineering, and integration in heavily regulated environments? ZapThink Take At ZapThink, we don’t think so. While the Agile Manifesto specifically states that working software should be valued over comprehensive documentation, it doesn’t claim that documentation is not useful, and it certainly doesn’t suggest that documentation should be completely removed from an Agile team’s standard process. At ZapThink, we interpret “working software over comprehensive documentation”…

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Agile 2015: Key Takeaways
Last week, we attended Agile 2015, an annual conference organized by the Agile Alliance “dedicated to furthering Agile principles and providing a venue for people and ideas to flourish.” In 2013 and 2014, we had the pleasure of speaking at the annual conference and sharing our ideas about Agile in the Federal IT space. This year, we were fortunate to attend the conference for a third time and participate in the conference’s first ever track aimed specifically at promoting ideas and sharing experiences related to Agile in the government. Building on our excitement from last week, we wanted to share some of our main takeaways from the conference regarding Agile in the government. Takeaway #1: The…

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Can Agile Really Work in Heavily Regulated IT Environments?
For the past several decades, Waterfall has been the leading software development methodology in heavily regulated IT environments. However, Waterfall’s popularity has declined in recent years as heavily regulated industries have increased acceptance of Agile software development practices. For example, the Federal government has released a number of recent publications and policy initiatives encouraging the use of Agile development practices and is establishing a new contract vehicle for Agile delivery services 1. The gradual emergence of Agile methodologies is encouraging for IT service providers looking for opportunities to leverage iterative development and delivery strategies to propel heavily regulated IT industries to the next level of efficiency. Waterfall vs. Agile There are a number of reasons that the government and other heavily regulated industries, such as health care, life sciences, energy and utilities, are shifting to Agile software development practices, but the major reason is likely the very low success…

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Connecting Project Lessons Learned to your IT Strategy with Project Retrospectives
A general term for a review conducted after major project milestones is lessons learned. Company culture influences the review structure and amount of formality that stakeholders use to evaluate project outcomes and reflect on experiences. Lessons learned can range from quick, highly subjective opinions about “how things went” to detailed examinations of performance compared to project goals and objectives. A productive lessons learned process should also generate inputs that support a cycle of continual improvement throughout the organization. The implication is that participants internalize lessons learned, transforming these experiences into wisdom that will be applied later. On a singular project level, with experienced team members, and a relatively low rate of change, this may be adequate. In larger, more complex organizations, with new projects and new team members, there are tremendous learning opportunities associated with transferring the lessons learned out of the source project and sharing them across the organization.

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The Need for Smart Data Visualization
Just because you can do data visualization, should you? Big Data is a big topic! It is one of the most popular buzzwords in the tech world today. From finance and banking, genomics and healthcare, to marketing and communications, nearly all industries want to utilize data to drive business decisions. Advances in communications, social networking, and information technology have fueled a tsunami of Big Data paving the way for development of interactive data visualization tools. Traditionally, data visualization tools were static, non-interactive graphs and tables that were a staple in board rooms. They provided a visual representation of the data, but required more time to analyze and understand the data. Further, the traditional data visualization tools could be error prone and often required in-depth knowledge of the application in use. The increased interest and advancements we are experiencing with interactive data visualization can be attributed to: • Advances in…

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What’s a PMO Got to Do with It?
Synergized Program Management Approaches Show Promise for Delivery of Complex, Domain-driven Technology Projects Overview Structured, controlled approaches to technology delivery from Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) through development and integration continue to gain traction and momentum across both the public and private sectors.  Budget pressures, sustainability needs, IT portfolio management discipline and past failures of technology investments continue to drive organizations towards structured technology management.  Structured technology management focused on measurable, repeatable processes (i.e. CMMI ®) following prescribed architectures and detailed, actively managed development/ enterprise lifecycles are the norm in the public sector and are growing in prominence across the private and non-profit sectors. Domain-heavy disciplines, such as healthcare life sciences, financial services and aviation, have struggled to develop, integrate and adopt/accept software and systems due to process complexity (i.e. scientific discovery), human-capital intensity (i.e. personnel intensive workflows) and high-cost of failure (i.e. one error can lead to loss of life…

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2014 Enterprise Architecture: Increasing Business Architecture ROI
In kicking off our new year, we are taking a fresh look at the way CIOs and Enterprise Architects (EA) look for value and ROI to your organization. As we continue our enterprise architecture journey with new agile solutions, we are focusing on 2014 best practices, frameworks, and methodologies. In our next several ZapFlash notes, we will offer insights in your architecture domains with a focus on the business and IT value, trending SOA-based solutions, emerging technologies including cybersecurity trends, key Federal IT guidelines, and agile architecture case studies. ZapThink’s focus continues on the agile architecture with SOA-based solutions for a strong foundation. We are focusing on current challenges and opportunities for architects, CIOs, and IT leaders. Our coverage will consist of the architecture domains with a focus on the business value, new SOA-based solutions, emerging technologies, and developing IT guidelines. We will look at the business architect (BA) role…

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