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Articles : Agile Delivery at British Telecom
on 2007/10/8 3:24:03 (3860 reads)
Articles

It is becoming clear, not least from the pages of this publication, that agile development methods are being adopted or at least considered by a growing number of software development teams & organisations. Whether you are already an active practitioner agile development, or considering its adoption on your project, you will be aware of the business benefits that can be derived through faster and more effective software delivery not to mention the motivational impact it can have on development teams. Alternatively, maybe you work for a large organisation that has yet to make any serious inroads into agile development, and are left wondering how agility could be made to work on a large scale.

Author: Ian Evans, British Telecom, www.bt.com

If you’re in the latter camp, or even if you are not actively considering agile development as such but are struggling to deliver large and / or complex programmes using traditional approaches and wishing there was a better way, then you are probably where British Telecom (BT) found itself in 2004. That was before the arrival at the company of a new CIO who systematically set about replacing the company’s long-standing waterfall-based delivery processes with one that embodied the key principles of agile delivery.

This article presents an overview of the approach taken by BT, illustrating how agile development principles can be applied successfully at the enterprise level. Needless to say, the approach taken by BT is not for the faint hearted – it has included a high degree of risk, and certainly a lot of pain. Now well into its second year however, although the transformation is far from complete, it is already paying dividends.

Background

BT employs some 8,000 IT professionals in a variety of roles including project & delivery management, architecture & design, software engineering, integration & testing, operational support and service management. Much of its internally-focussed development work has traditionally been channelled through a number of business-focussed delivery projects or programmes, ranging from quite small, simple developments to large-scale and complex business solutions, the latter tending to be the norm.

The predominant delivery approach, certainly for the larger delivery programmes, was very much waterfall-based. The use of agile development practice, notably DSDM and Scrum, was limited to a small number of fairly small, self-contained development teams. BT was in fact one of the founding members of the DSDM Consortium and took an active part in shaping the method in its early days.

Despite successfully delivering a number of large, complex solutions into a dynamic, competitive yet highly regulated business environment, many significant transformation programmes were struggling to deliver any notable results in an acceptable timeframe. As part of a CMMI-inspired improvement strategy, efforts had been made to formalise acknowledged best practice processes into a standard delivery methodology. In 2004, this standard methodology was in the process of being rolled out when the new CIO made it clear that an entirely new agile approach was needed.

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