Welcoming Change Whilst in the Realm of Agile Software Development

One of the most difficult principles of Agile Software Development to actually implement is the principle of welcoming change. Two of the statements of values in the Agile manifesto are:

  1. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  2. Responding to change over following a plan

Both of these statements lead to the idea that Agile Software Development welcomes changes from customers and other stakeholders in the project. The Software Development team aims to gather feedback by developing frequent releases through developing the software in a series of iterations. A customer, changing their minds concerning the requirements of a project, isn’t viewed as a problem, which can be in sharp contrast to how a lot of methodologies approach the topic of requirements changing. This incorporation of feedback and customer involvement is an important contribution to the success of Agile methodologies as it leads to the development of software that customers really want. Following this principle is no easy task because the application of this principle needs to start at the very beginning of a project. Guides to implementing Agile Software Development frequently mention the role of the executive sponsor, and other business oriented roles within a company which need to buy-in and support an initiative to introduce Agile Software Development. But in a Software Development company that develops bespoke software directly for customers, the business people in the company need to understand and stick to the principles of Agile Software Development likewise.

There may be support for Agile Software Development in a project of all members but the general perception amongst the business people is that it is one area which the developers do, and does not directly concern them. As much of the material available on Agile Software Development does specifically concern Software Development teams, that is quite an understandable assumption to make. In a company developing bespoke software, the client needs to be made aware of the nature of an Agile Software Development project, and a contract needs to be negotiated that is compatible with the chosen methodology. And it’s the business people who are associated with a project that usually hold the responsibility of setting the customer’s expectations for a project and negotiating the contract.

Customers not really acquainted with Software Development expect that when negotiating a new project with a Software Development company that the process is quite like purchasing almost every other goods and services. The client explains what they need, they agree a price together with a delivery date, and the customer then waits for it to be achieved. The Software Development company will not want to challenge these expectations for the fear of making a customer uncomfortable, and potentially losing their business. This often leads to a binding agreement that mirrors these expectations. The customer continues to expect that the software, by the release date, is going to be ready and do everything the customer wants, and they only need to wait.

However it is inevitable that the customer will need to provide feedback on the software and will be very keen to make some changes. In the above scenario the client is going to find themselves giving their feedback at a time towards the release date when they actually get to see the software.

These changes are unlikely to be very welcome to the Software Development company at this point. In practice these requests for changes results in friction between the customer and the Software Development company, possibly bringing about arguments between the company and the customer. The company will believe that these requirements wasn’t specified originally when the contract was signed and demand additional cash to implement these changes. If the customer agrees, a new contract will need to be negotiated. On the other hand the company may agree to do these changes for free given that the customer is without a doubt quite upset that the software does not do what the customer wants. The more often these changes are handled for free; the company gets closer to generating a loss on the project. In both of these scenarios, the project is sure to be late.

If the development team itself is trying to be Agile and is developing the project in iterations, the case is often improved through getting feedback from the customer earlier on in the project. But if the contract remains to be the same, these changes will still be unwelcome to the business people associated with the project. They will be seen as an extra expense and the developers are going to be instructed to extend the time on making these changes until a new or revised contract can be negotiated. Once the business people perceive that changes will be happening between iterations and that this needs addressing, they should recognise that a new approach will probably be required in future for making new contracts with customers. An effective option that they might choose is to try to break down the ‘development’ of the project into separate, ready planned phases and then make this the substance of the contract. This approach doesn’t challenge the customer’s expectations of being certain of the outcome of a project, and so it appears like a safe option. At the start of a project, a customer is frequently quite positive that they know what they aspire to. In practice, actually seeing and using the software might most likely make the customer consider the project in a whole lot more depth than they had previously.

This phased approach to making contracts is not going to solve the issue of welcoming changes and introduces new problems. When the first phase of the project completes, the customer gets to use the software for the first time and starts making requests for changes. As a consequence the next phase will have to be planned again. If the original phases were time estimated then the next phase will require a new estimation from the development team. And the business people will have to create a new contract for the next phase. Normally, this approach will demand a large administrative overhead for relatively small amounts of work. The customer can also be likely to get impatient over the length of time it takes just to get some more work done. More steps need to be taken to effectively develop within an iterative fashion.

In an ideal scenario, the people setting the customer’s expectations for the project would have bought in to the concept of Agile Software Development and grasp the principles involved. They would have the responsibility of also convincing the customer of these benefits and negotiating a contract that works well with their chosen methodology. Three typical customer expectations shall be challenged during this process:

  1. that they already know exactly what they want
  2. that they can be certain of what to expect at the end of the project
  3. that the Software Development company is exclusively responsible for the success of the project

To convince the customer that developing the project the Agile way is a good idea; the benefits need to be emphasised:

  • That they can change their minds if they want, when they want
  • Their changes will be incorporated in to their application quickly with minimal administrative overhead
  • They will not have to wait long to see their changes in the software
  • The application developed will be what they want it to be not now but what they want on the release date
  • They will have an important role in guiding the development of the project throughout its development

There are of course trade-offs for these benefits:

  • The customer can’t be certain what they are certain to get at the end of the project when signing the contract
  • The criteria for the success of the project will change with time and will not be stated explicitly in the contract as a detailed specification
  • The customer must take an enthusiastic role participating in the project. The project’s success all hangs on on the effectiveness of the collaboration between the customer and the Software Development team.
  • The customer will have to prioritise their changes, choosing which ones are developed first and which of them have to be dropped when necessary

A compatible contract will likely not state a detailed project plan, and make that plan a binding agreement for the Software Development company. General, advanced level requirements will be used as the success criteria for the project.

In return the contract will enable the customer to request changes to the project when the customer wants to. A formal definition of how changes are handled will be included in the contract. This definition will match the methodology used by the Software Development team. With most Agile methodologies this will mean that the development team will incorporate these changes in the next iteration following the change request from the customer. The contract will also not contain specific time estimations for high level requirements. It will instead contain an iteration schedule. A contract that welcomes change is a contract that does not have to be changed.

While the process described is known as change, this term doesn’t accurately describe the all that is taking place. A changing business environment can motivate changes in requirements but what is happening most often is the creation of new ideas for the software from both the customers and the development team. It is part of the creative process that makes the software and it is definitely something that ought to be welcomed.

What Is a Software Development Life Cycle?

A set of instructions for the computer to read and understand to perform a specific task is called a Software. Software development is the process to use computer programming to develop a software. This is not new for many, but the topic under consideration will be new for many. SDLC or Software Development Life Cycle, is the process of developing a new software.

The process of developing a software is not difficult to understand. The procedure of SDLC goes like this:

  1. Gathering and then analyzing the requirements to develop a software
  2. Designing of the software
  3. Coding or programming
  4. Testing the software
  5. Deployment
  6. Maintaining the software

Gathering and Then Analyzing the Requirements to Develop a Software

This is the initial phase. Like starting any business, starting to work on a new software requires a plan. The planning phase will include the project managers, stakeholders and even some senior software developers. No matter how professional or for how long the software development company has been operating, the planning is not an easy phase to follow. Although, it would take less time for experts to plan a new project and then to start working on it but still there will be some questions that must always be answered before taking on any project. Following are some questions, which needs answers before taking on the project:

  • Who will be using the software?
  • How they will be using it?
  • What is the required data to input?
  • What will be the output of the input data?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What skills are required?Will there be a need to hire new personnel or the current staff have the right skills and the capacity to work on this new project?

Find their answers. Is the project worth it? A thorough analysis is required here. There will be more questions that need to be answered before taking on this new project. All the work is documented for future reference.

Designing of the Software

Now comes the second phase, the designing of the software. On the basis of the documentation and the results of the first phase, the system and the software is given a design. From this, the developers comes to know the requirements of the hardware and system required to complete their new project. This phase will also define the system architecture. The designing phase will set the requirements for the next phase.

Coding or Programming

Here comes the role of the software developers. The system design documents are now divided into modules and the developers now start their job. This is going to be the longest phase of all. Programming is done here and it’s known to all that programming isn’t an easy job. It needs plenty of time, expertise and patience. Once done, the software developer sends their work to the tester.

Testing the Software

When in the production business, the quality of the product is always monitored and tested. So is the case with a software development. When the coding is done, the software developer sends their work to the Software Quality Assurance department /personnel. They will overlook the work of the software developers. The software quality assurance or the SQA for short will look for bugs and test the software. The test will be made as per the requirements and the guidelines mentioned in the requirements document. Unit testing, integration testing, system testing, acceptance testing is done by the SQA and if found deviations or errors, it’s sent back to the software developer. The procedures will keeps on repeating themselves until the software is bugs free and ready to deploy.

Deployment of the Software

On successful completion of the software and the testing, it is sent to the concerned client or is available to the public.

Maintaining the Software

Only the non-serious professionals or the ones not willing to carry on their business will not look back to their software but the serious developers will. Every software needs updating and maintenance. Whenever the software encounters some troubles, the software developing company will be there to fix it.

SDLC follows a simple procedure and it doesn’t require you to be a businessperson to know all the phases of SDLC. Every software developer and software developing company knows it all. So when hiring a software developing company you can rest assure that the procedure will be done in a professional way and the best product will be delivered.

Software Development Outsourcing – Destination India

Software Development has assumed extreme significance in the light of the global demand for new IT solutions and IT-enabled services. Appropriate software development gives the right amount of impetus to the functioning of the web sites and the quality of services they render. This in itself is a daunting task, requiring thousands of skilled professionals to put in hours of research, experimentation, testing and trials.Skilled manpower, technology and infrastructure are essential, apart from the demand from the IT industry. It is here that offshore outsourcing plays a major role. The developed companies making rapid strides in the field of information technology have always been finding it difficult to find the right amount of manpower needed. On the other hand, developing countries, especially Asian countries like India and China, have been following an IT policy that has resulted in the generation of enormously skilled manpower and a really well developed IT infrastructure. This has led to a real boom outsourcing with the destination being India.

India, by choice rather than by destiny, has become the ideal zone for offshore software development. The early 1990’s saw the rapid opening of India’s economy to the world, focusing on being market-oriented. This major tilt in the Indian economic policy, saw the rapid inflow of foreign direct investment and foreign business interest to India. The availability of highly skilled and talented software programmers and well developed IT infrastructure attracted the companies from developed countries to India, like moth to the flame.India boasted of the highest number of CMM Level 5 certified companies and the presence of several Indian IT companies listed on the NYSE and NASDAQ which in turn attracted a large number of Fortune 500 companies that outsource their software needs to India.

With the offshore outsourcing business to India touching new highs, Indian outsourcing partners are growing in confidence and moving up the ladder to offer more and more complex and specialized services. Moving away from the bits and pieces outsourcing, Indian companies have today specialised in developing complete softwares and development packages for global clients. The software development process has several stages like need analysis, defining requirements, establishing a software specification, designing the software with great application and dedication, writing the software, coding it and successfully testing it.

Through years of successful offshore outsourcing, Indian companies have behind them rich experience in not only documenting software but providing support thought out. Indian software companies are constantly improving their development standards by enhancing their skilled manpower base and their development facilities. These Indian companies have today progressed into customized solutions development.The high quality of the solutions outsourced from India as well as popularity of custom software development involving emergence of creative and innovative solutions,have made companies from developed countries look to India as a viable ,dependable outsourcing destination.

The strongest factor in favor of outsourcing to India , is the fact that the Indian Government is strongly committed to IT development with IT being one of the top five priorities of the government. This unequivocal stance on the part of the government , has instilled confidence into the minds of the overseas companies who flock in droves for offshore outsourcing to India. The Software Technology Parks of India offer world-class infrastructure and various incentives and concessions to encourage foreign investment and promote software development in India. The fact that India has a stable government with a stable democratic process and a peace-loving population has made it one of the world’s ten fastest growing economies. The timely privatization of the infrastructure segment has led to creation of convergence , a major focal point of IT development today, by integrating the ISP, Telecom, VSAT, Cellular and networking sectors. India’s large business houses and public sector undertakings are working towards creating greater bandwidth availability.

Outsourcing has progressed from the rudimentary specific application development to the whole gamut of designing and developing the entire requirements of custom software needs and is spreading to new uncharted territories. The new areas include E governance, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, financial services, transcription services and retail services. The fast disappearing geographical boundaries and the convergence of the world towards IT enablement, has made India’s role as the leading offshore outsourcing services provider with special emphasis on software development, is undisputed . With a superabundance all positive factors and conducive climate, it is not really surprising that most of the leading technology giants of the world like Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, SAP, IBM , Dell, Apple-Macintosh and many more, have opened full-fledged offices in India, looking to take advantage of the excellent software development services provided by Indian outsourcing and BPO giants like Infosys, Wipro, Satyam and so many more companies.

The future outlook for outsourcing from India, is certainly bright. Having established its’ credentials beyond any doubt, India is poised for growth on all frontiers, be it quality solutions, quality infrastructure or quality manpower. Backed by such strong fundamentals like quality assurance and timely deliveries, India has emerged as the number one destination for software development outsourcing, outpacing China and other fast-growing Asian countries.