Travelogue To LeanVille

Is there a way to shave years off of the trial and error implementing Agile?
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The webMethods R&D division of Software AG (wM) produces industry-leading enterprise products focused on application integration, business process integration and B2B partner integration. This division with more than 450 engineers across 7 locations in the world embarked on the journey of adopting Agile and Lean Software Development practices in 2010.

The Pain

The wM business line consists of about 40 Scrum teams delivering more than 30 enterprise products that constitute the webMethods suite across 7 locations in the world. Circa 2007, the suite was a loose collection of multiple products individually developed by teams, many of which were brought together by M&As. It was a hard, painful challenge to integrate and test these products as a single suite and synchronizing major releases. The teams embraced Scrum as the development model – a useful first step but still far from guaranteeing predictability, high standards of quality and productivity at the suite level.

The Challenge

Align multiple, small scrum teams distributed over many locations to one Suite Backlog. Focus them on delivering an integrated Suite by modeling an assembly line from a Lean Manufacturing system. The teams develop and contribute to a single value stream with continuous flow and deliver potentially shippable Suite Build Sets in predictable intervals (4-6weeks).

Retain the simplicity of the ‘Agile model’. Allow teams to grow at their pace. The teams work off their individual team backlogs, the suite complexities and priority conflicts largely hidden from them. They experiment with their processes, drive their own local changes and share the learning with the other teams.

Since embracing Lean and Agile practices, we have delivered three successful major Suite releases on time with measured quality. The customer situation has dramatically improved with steadily decreasing customer incidents, response times and hot escalations. More than a 100,000 automated regression tests verify the suite and we have a potentially shippable Suite build set every 4-6 weeks guaranteeing the highest standards of quality. For faster value delivery, we are now transitioning to 6-monthly releases — the first of which is due to roll out in Q4 2013.

In this Experience report, I focus on how we aligned scrum teams operating from Germany, U.S, Bulgaria and India to a single backlog, a continuously integrated Suite and a potentially shippable single build set delivered every 4-6 weeks. We will look at the challenges we faced, custom solutions and processes that we designed to realize the Single Suite Vision.

Speakers: Harish Krishnaswamy, Software AG