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Agile Project Management Techniques for Global Software Delivery
During my three decades of professional tenure, I have seen the IT landscape undergo tectonic shifts. From mainframes and minicomputers, we now have Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) adding a new dimension to business models around the world. The differences are not limited to core technology and reach; mainframe and minicomputer programs were data intensive, distributed PC apps are user interface intensive, Internet PC apps are user volume intensive, and today’s SMAC apps are integration intensive.

Today, integration is not only about technology but also about customer and partner firms integrating into the enterprise. Through Global Software Delivery (GSD), a new enterprise IT model is created that enables an organization to be more innovative, collaborative, real-time, and productive.

In the GSD context, the basic challenges that most clients and service providers face are related to time, cost, quality, and risks. These challenges present themselves in new avatars such as disruptive business models, SMAC opportunities, value-based pricing, distributed skills, and dynamic requirements.

IT Landscape Transition
Clients today come to IT service providers with specific SMAC enablement requirements as they want to take advantage of these disruptive technologies. The essence of SMAC solutions is to provide flexibility and personalization in this era of volatile customer trends and faster time-to-market requirements. Customers expect a working software over documentation and an exhaustive process.

Customers require service providers to deliver long-term success instead of focusing on just successful delivery. Commercials are linked to the output and value delivered rather than the input, or in other words, effort spent on delivery. Thus, a big challenge in GSD is not cost but value for the client.

GSD today is also characterized by distributed workforce rather than co-located teams. A continuous cycle of development, integration, and deployment is the ideal way for a distributed team to collaborate and innovate.

Due to shorter business cycles and dynamic business requirements, customers want early visibility of product features under development. Also, large investments in building a product and long cycle times for return on investment is a key concern among customers. Co-creation of applications that involve the customer or a closed loop feedback mechanism incorporated in delivery is the need of the hour.

A majority of these challenges can be overcome using agile practices in project management as they focus on delivering value where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development, and a time-boxed iterative approach. Agile project planning must reflect a global cadence of collaboration right from the inception of a project on a storyboard to its final deployment and closure. In the current software delivery environment, agile project management methodology is the new ‘normal’ and the waterfall software development life cycle has become a luxury. An agile project manager can be seen as more of an orchestra music conductor than a building contractor.

There are five elements of agile methodologies that project management needs to imbibe. I refer to them as the “Agile Pentagram for Project Management” in Global Software Delivery (Figure below).

Agile Pentagram for Project Management
In conclusion, holistic benefits of agile project management methodology can be realized when it is embedded deeply within an organization’s culture through a dedicated agile center of excellence that works across organizational groups including talent management, operations, infrastructure, and projects.

(Mr. Vasu Rangachary is senior vice president, Cognizant Technology Solutions, and heads the offshore advanced solutions practice. With around 27 years of experience in the software industry, he focuses on building specialized large program management and niche technology solutions in content management and design, business process integration, and digital security.)
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