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Brian Wernham - Part 1 of Talk to BCS on 5 February 2013 - The FBI Goes Agile

Brian Wernham - Part 1 of Talk to BCS on 5 February 2013 - The FBI Goes Agile

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Published by BWernham
Part 1: Brian talks about the FBI Sentinel Project
Part 1: Brian talks about the FBI Sentinel Project

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Categories:Business/Law
Published by: BWernham on Feb 14, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/01/2013

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Two talks presented to the British Computer Society on February 5, 2013at the Davidson Building, London
Talk 1Talk 1Talk 1Talk 1::::
TThe Agile approach saves the FBI Sentinel Project… he Agile approach saves the FBI Sentinel Project… he Agile approach saves the FBI Sentinel Project… he Agile approach saves the FBI Sentinel Project…
 Brian Wernham Brian Wernham Brian Wernham Brian Wernham FBCS FAPM  FBCS FAPM  FBCS FAPM  FBCS FAPM 
 
© Brian Wernham 2013 CC BY-NC-ND
 
1
The Agile approach saves theFBI Sentinel Project
Brian Wernham FBCS FAPMAuthor and Consultant
Good evening to you all! Why should you care about how theGovernment handles big technology projects?Three reasons:One: Everyone in this room is a taxpayer.Even if you are not resident in the UK, you will have been paying sales tax on goods andservices while you are staying here. And then,no matter where you live, you will be payingtaxes to your Government in your country.So - you have a vested interest in efficient,nimble, Agile Government, whoever you are, wherever you live.Two: Government represents about 50% of ITspend - standards and approaches taken inGovernment projects have a major influencein the private sector.Three: Some of you will be working forGovernment bodies, or for suppliers toGovernment - now or in the future.Talking with Agile experts - in the private andpublic sectors, I see a massive opportunity toshift thinking on project approaches. We can now convince Chief InformationOfficers of large organisations that Agile ispart of the development landscape, that it isready for use ‘at scale’, and on missioncritical developments.Senior leaders ask me:“What is this thing called ‘agile’?”“Surely having a fixed specification before work starting reduces risk?”“Can Agile really be used to solve the problemof runaway government IT projects?”So - here is the question that we will addresstogether today. What evidence is there that Agile is What evidence is there that Agile is What evidence is there that Agile is What evidence is there that Agile issuitable for largesuitable for largesuitable for largesuitable for large----scale projects?scale projects?scale projects?scale projects? We need to make it clear to industry leadersthat there are two alternative approaches todeveloping large-scale technology projects -and, in most cases, only one is viable.Either the traditional, monolithic, ‘BigDesign Up Front’ approach of massive 'all ornothing' 'Waterfall' projects.Or, alternatively, the incremental, 'Agile'approach using 'Just Enough ProjectManagement' to implement the newprocesses and the supporting technology. Are the inherent problems of ‘Big Design UpFront’ and 'Waterfall' projects so difficult toexplain?I don’t think so.Let’s look at it from a leadership viewpoint.Businesses need risk management, nottechnical engineering for its own sake. Theyneed to effect business change at scale, not just tinker with broken processes.
 
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The Traditional Approach
Firstly, look at the problems with ‘Big DesignUp Front’ from an everyday person’s point of  view.Homer Simpson. You may recall an episode of 'The Simpsons' where a car manufacturer decides thatHomer, being an average American, is theperfect person to design a new car. Homer isgiven an entirely free rein in the design, andspecifies a car with every feature he couldever want. A bubble dome, a Rolls Royceradiator - and huge tail fins!This car turns out to be totally unusable, andfar too expensive to produce. An example wecan use to explain to anyone the frequentoutput resulting from a ‘Big Design UpFront’. When we communicate with business people, we need to how ‘Big Design Up Front’ createsa tendency towards 'Waterfall' projects.Many people here have experienced first-handthe 'Waterfall' approach, work is divided intoartificially separate and sequential steps. Inthe ‘Waterfall’ approach, a new step cannot bestarted until a previous step has beencompleted.Once one has committed to swimmingdownstream, it is impossible to return to anearlier stage without a lot of effort –asdifficult as trying to swim up a Waterfall.Now, in making the case for Agile to seniorleaders, we should not overstate the case. A 'Waterfall' approach is often unavoidable, when, for example, making changes tomainframe systems. 'Waterfall' can producegood outputs if requirements are stable, if there is a long-standing change team inplace, and if the technology is wellunderstood. But, and it’s a big but, that's a lotof 'ifs'. We need to convince senior business leadersthat the fundamental problem of the'Waterfall' lifecycle is that it relies uponpinpoint accuracy and perfect logic at everystep if it is to produce a workable solution.'Waterfall' and ‘Big Design Up Front’ gotogether like a horse and carriage - onerequires and encourages the other.

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