Since 2018, the CCS teams have been using a Lean-Agile oriented approach to ensure more efficient and resilient management. This practice has been implemented within the DSNA, ENAV and skyguide teams thanks to the support of Agile coaches. Four years after has started, what are the major evolutions and changes brought with this Agile approach and which improvements are still to be made?
Developments and benefits of agility:
Since its implementation, the teams have experienced changes and a clear improvement in the organization and progress of the project.
Firstly with the adoption of a culture of continuous improvement: CCS stakeholders have periodically reflected on how to make processes more efficient. This led to regular improvements and in the end more seamless value delivery.
Secondly, through better transparency throughout the project: the introduction of weekly events where teams share their progress as well as their potential risks and impediments has really helped to collectively make the right decisions at the earliest possible stage. PI planning events (two-day event with everyone) also helped to align people. Regular reviews of the actual work done during the iterations contributed to a better progress overview for all stakeholders (internal and external).
The SAFe framework provides important roles at Programme level: RTE (Release Train Engineer), PM (Product Management) and SA (System Architect). These roles highly polarised, help to clarify the organization and facilitate the work of all team members. The different people who assumed these roles gained in maturity thanks to the support of the Agile coach.
The CCS project implies strong cooperation between three geographically separate entities. Implementing regular events such as the ART Sync (Agile Release Train Synchronisation), where people communicate effectively, contributed to establish and maintain alignment between the different stakeholders, even in difficult times like the pandemic crisis.
Alongside this strong team collaboration throughout the Programme Increments (PI), the PI Planning events foster communication, alignment, engagement, and team building. These events contribute to create a strong collective dynamic and knowledge sharing (next steps, action plans…). The teams generally emerge more motivated and energised for the successful continuation of the project.
Finally, the collaborative development of a strong visual management, based on digital tools (such as Klaxoon), makes it possible to maintain activities despite the COVID crisis and ensure regular information sharing.
Areas of improvement:
“In a so complex program with different kind of expertise coming from 3 different countries, it was very important to gradually introduce the agile approach trying to design the theory of the agile principles and methods on the real day by day activity. The change in the organization of activities and the constitution of team and new roles implies a period of adaptation and the need to put in place new tools and process to support the agile approach. During the four years, there were several changes along with the program in order to improve based on the lessons learned, the result is a hybrid approach in which we found a balance between the agile roles, the theory and the program peculiarity.” Valentina Piccinelli, Release Train Engineer.
After 4 years of implementing Agile approaches, the CCS teams, with the help of the Agile coach, analysed the elements that could still be improved, although it is a real success for the project.
The CCS project was originally structured on the basis of a fixed time, fixed resources, and fixed scope, all set at the beginning of a stage (within the Project Management Plan). This is not exactly the Agile approach for product management. Nevertheless, time and resources cannot be changed and the need to prioritise work (based on various criteria, one of which is the business value delivered) is part of the reality of software development and potential obstacles that arise along the way. If taken into account from the beginning, this Agile approach for product management could benefit all business owners in terms of predictability.
“The new methodology has changed our way of working, moving the focus of the whole team form the tasks to the objectives. Time boxing of the activities and the periodic planning have been the real added value to the project, allowing immediate identification and removal of any impediments, and facilitating teams integration and coordination. On the other hand, flexibility of Agile approach doesn’t always get along with contractual aspects and content constraints, so find a good balance between pure methodology and real needs is key for the successful implementation.” Laura De Stefani, Release Train Engineer.
Moreover, all CCS stakeholders (team members, programme level roles and business owners) would benefit from SAFe trainings to fully appreciate both the importance of values and principles that underpin the framework and a common understanding of roles, artefacts and practices that are implemented in the project. This overall alignment has been progressively addressed by the Agile coach but some grey areas may still remain.
In conclusion, thanks to this Agile approach, the CCS project succeeded in meeting its milestones and ensuring timely delivery to skyguide, its main customer. This was achieved through regular and close communication between the various stakeholders, and transparency on the overall progress of the project. This approach also enabled all activities to be maintained despite the two-year COVID crisis and the various confinements.
Finally, although there is always room for improvement, agility has proven to be extremely effective when it comes to assessing the satisfaction and morale of CCS members.