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April 11, 2017

And How to StaySafe with Agile!

The massive growth of online shopping, is proof that the digital era, specially the mobility revolution, is clearly changing consumer behavior and buying patterns. In their quest for customer acquisition and competitive differentiation, retail companies are innovating rapidly. But in todays digital age, this innovation is not limited to just reconfiguring in-store, premium shelf spaces with fast moving, in-demand items. The innovation must cover multiple touch points physical stores, websites, mobile apps, and even social media pages. As a result, go to market strategies are not just based on historical sales data or traditional market research, but also take in to account buying history, consumer behavior, cross sale purchases, and even customer sentiment from social media.

The GDP growth in most economies promises business growth across sectors. But riding this rise with un-assured solutions could prove risky. Simply because, the rise also introduces risks that must be adequately mitigated. New and advanced software is changing the rules of business. With constant pressure of innovating rapidly, organizations are now adopting digital transformation strategies. Through this post, Ill discuss how Agile can help CIOs accelerate solution and product delivery, reach market faster and stay ahead of competition.

Before I dwell deeper, let me first shatter a few myths surrounding Agile myths that have kept retail CIOs thinking, and prevented Agile from making inroads into retail IT landscapes. First – the perception of Agile being more flexible, but less stable. Evolving customer and market requirements, combined with continuous delivery and integration, is perhaps, the main reason for this line of thinking, specially for advocates of the traditional, analyze-design-develop-test school of thought. As these traditional pundits watch accelerated releases break the waterfall, and change application functionality almost on a daily basis, the instability thinking sets in. Yes, Agile is flexible enough to accommodate continuously changing needs. And with multiple sprints backed by continuous feedback, it also ensures stability of the development process and the resulting solutions.

The second myth is about QA being costly in the Agile environment. In fact, in a previous post on this channel, a colleague explained why in the Agile world, testing is not simply a phase with the objective of logging defects. I concur with the posts reasoning because QA doesnt just assure quality of the final product, but also introduces checks and balances in intermediate work processes and products, making them more efficient and reliable. Besides optimizing cost of quality, by facilitating early defect detection and reducing expensive rework, QA, in its other applied areas and testing avatars, also improves application usability, performance and security. These are important facets because the plethora of choices makes it easy for customers to switch brands. Further, QA also addresses security challenges introduced by advanced payment technologies such as mobile wallets. So while the QA checks do involve an upfront investment of resources, time and money, in the long run, this investment yields high returns with customer delight being the major payback.

Finally, team co-location is another myth surrounding Agile. Today, global, distributed teams are a business reality. Its no more feasible, nor advisable to co-locate everyone at one physical location. With distributed teams spread across locations, the move from waterfall to Agile seems almost impossible. Communication, co-ordination, time lag, task distribution, decision making and team management are often cited as challenges. These challenges, however, can be easily addressed with a combination of efficient technology and processes.Collaboration tools combined with well-planned QA processes canenable businesses to convert challenges into opportunities. For example, distributed teams present opportunities to tap global talent and 24×7 operations. With this and other best practices, QA makes co-location a thing of the past. Other best practices include deployment of collaborative tools for timely information exchange, effective planning through regular stand-ups and scrum meetings, adequate and standardized documentation, team utilization tracking, re-usable repositories, tools and code, robust security controls, version control and configuration management, and continuous training and competency development. In my opinion, more than co-location, its Team Work that contributes to a projects success. And team work is influenced by four main factors Distribute to utilize global talent and access new markets, Collaborate to share ideas and achieve common goals, Co-ordinate to remove hindrances and resolve roadblocks, and Complete releases well in time.

Having reaped the benefits of Agile, many businesses are now getting ready for the next big leap driving Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD) by dismantling the barriers between Development, QA and Operations. Driven by the practice of developing, checking and testing code often, and deploy multiple, smaller and more frequent releases, Dev-QA-Ops clearly is the future for business applications. By connecting three important functions Development, QA and IT operations, Dev-QA-Ops can drive enhanced agility, responsiveness, and faster time to market throughout the software delivery lifecycle. Is your company prepared to get on the Dev-QA-Ops bandwagon? To capitalize on the Rise of Digital, you must start thinking about accelerating with agile and developing with DevOps. Are you really delivering high-quality values to the market faster and at lower cost to the business?

Sasmita Patanaik is the delivery partner for metal, mining and construction customers globally for TCS' Assurance Services Unit. With 17 years experience in IT program and quality management and consulting, she has worked across different sectors including transportation, life sciences, retail, and metal and mining, across various geographies. She has a strong passion for quality guardianship and next gen digital assurance. Recently, she also underwent the SAFe Agilist training which aims at creating a mindshare among stakeholders to adopt Agile.


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