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Think lean before you start agile projects

In the past few weeks I’ve been writing about agile projects, Scrum vs. waterfall or using the two project approaches together, and a theme that keeps coming up when I talk to project managers is cutting the fat.

For a software development project to be agile, Alex Keenan, an ERP analyst and agile project team member with a large grocery chain, believes waste should be pinpointed as you plan and implement any project, and, with agile, continued to be identified with each project iteration.

He points to a Forrester Research chart that compares lean methodologies used in manufacturing and their counterparts for software development.

Sources of waste in manufacturing include: overproduction, waiting (time on hand), unnecessary transport, overprocessing or incorrect processing, excess inventory, unnecessary movement, defects and unused employee creativity.

The application development equivalents, according to Forrester Research, are: too many superfluous artifacts, broken builds, too many tool transitions, rigid architectures, analysis paralysis, late discovery of defects, rising downstream labor costs, polluted supply chain management streams and measure of effort and not results.

CIO Niel Nickolaisen also lays out how to translate lean methodologies to IT projects in a recent column.

From lean methodologies, I have learned about the seven forms of waste and how to map those to IT processes:

• Rework: How many times in IT do we ask for do-overs?
• Waiting: For example, we often have to wait for the input of a subject-matter expert before we can make a decision.
• Overprocessing: Research tells us that 64% of the software features and functions we develop are rarely, if ever, used.
• Excess inventory: A recent study found that about 40% of our software licenses are shelfware.
• Excess motion: How many of our status reporting mechanisms actually generate value rather than churn?
• Excess movement: Am I the only one whose projects get caught in multiple decision loops?
• Overproduction: How many of us buy licenses in large batches, rather than just in time?

These are a few takes on applying lean methodologies to IT projects and processes. What works for you? Email me at [email protected].

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