Software Development Company Increases Velocity and Improves Productivity by more than 300% in less than 3 months
Dātu Health, a provider of health care software, was experiencing rapid growth with the prospect of still more opportunities. However, the development organization was not fully prepared for this growth, and the current projects were at risk for late delivery.
Dātu was using an Agile development process, with a software delivery team of approximately 50 people. While the process was flexible, the workflow proved difficult to manage. In the midst of rising customer demand for more software features, delivery could not keep pace with the workload. More and more resources were added to satisfy rising expectations, but despite long hours and many weekends writing code, the company remained challenged by promised delivery dates
The stakes were high: by complying with new government regulations around Meaningful Use principles, the customer would benefit financially—but only if they implemented the new program by its targeted date. Discouraged by delays and the lack of finished features, both the customer and Dātu recognized a need for process improvement in order to improve productivity.
Right from the start, the team quickly realized that they didn’t have visibility into all of the work in the system. Without visibility into the workflow, Dātu could not get control of the system. VISUM complemented and supplemented the Agile model in use with formalized management processes, built around proven principles, to enable an increase in feature deliveries.
Without a “big picture” understanding of the entire project, developers were working in the dark, blind to the collective goal. To create a foundation for collaborative action, they created a visual project board and execution process. Immediately, the entire team could see the “log jams” that required the most urgent attention. The team was able to effectively collaborate, rapidly identifying problems and resolve obstacles, dramatically increasing the rate of feature completions.
Like many teams under pressure, the team had started too many tasks at once, creating a “hurry up and wait” dilemma that clogged the workflow with unfinished work. Dātu selected a constraint—or pacing process—that dictated the delivery cadence for the entire workflow. By synching task starts to this constraint, the team limited the excess work in progress (WIP), thereby increasing the productivity of the entire team. As for the existing work, they froze about one-fourth of the current active features and ensured that people (or teams) were not working on more than a limited number of features a day to restore flow and prevent the constraint process from being starved for lack of work.
In a continued effort to improve productivity and increase throughput, Dātu then focused on the feature sets for which the team had complete input requirements.
The team created a managed priority system that reflected the global focus and was used for all development work; setting priorities based on the feature sets that were most important to the client. The priority control system maintained consistency of task priorities throughout the development workflow, aligning local priorities with the client’s goals and commitments. This increased programmer productivity.
Before, individuals and teams measured their progress in terms of their assigned tasks, regardless of impact on the overall goal. Dātu realigned the entire development team to its collective objective: completing work for the client. Together, the team defined metrics that drove more value to the customer. These measurements also facilitated, increased completion velocity and greater quality. In addition, the team reduced rework by applying clean start requirements for critical handover points between project management and the design, development and data/infrastructure process.
Work completed by scheduled date and with committed scope—with less stress
Within the first three months, the Dātu team increased feature completions more than 300%. Additionally, there was significantly less stress and frustration among the team, thus improving morale. The team met the next two major release dates, each time with less conflict, fire-fighting and last minute drama.