Why Overlapping Work & Concurrent Engineering Are Key to Agility


One of many 12 rules within the Agile Manifesto is “Working software program (or product) is the first measure of progress.” That’s why agile groups (e.g. Scrum groups) whether or not creating software program or every other product, work collectively to ship one thing of worth to their buyer each iteration.

For this to occur, agile groups embrace concurrent engineering. Concurrent engineering (or simultaneous engineering) is a means of working the place duties overlap, relatively than taking place in a sequence of phased handoffs.

The Essential Advantage of Concurrent Engineering

Distinction overlapping work with sequential engineering, the place product improvement work occurs in phases. For instance, on a software program undertaking, we’d have an evaluation section adopted by a design section adopted by a coding section and in the end a testing section. On the finish of every section, work is handed off to the subsequent individual or crew with the talents to finish the subsequent section of labor.

If that occurred on an agile software program improvement undertaking, it would take 4 iterations earlier than a crew may ship one thing to the shopper!

So cross-functional agile groups as an alternative collaborate to finish all actions crucial to ship a product increment inside a time-bound iteration (generally referred to as a dash). The varied varieties of labor overlap.

Utilizing the earlier instance, on an agile crew, as one developer is designing a consumer interface, a second crew member begins coding the performance, and a 3rd developer begins to create assessments for the performance. All inside the identical iteration!

On the finish of the iteration, high-performing agile groups are in a position to ship a totally conceptualized, designed, created, and examined increment of worth to their buyer.

Concurrent engineering hurries up product improvement and time to market–not as a result of groups are working sooner or tougher, however as a result of they’re able to get small chunks of accomplished performance into the arms of their customers sooner. This offers organizations an incredible aggressive benefit, and is likely one of the many causes corporations undertake an agile methodology to start with.

To make concurrent engineering work, agile groups should do three issues: Keep away from finish-to-start relationships, embrace uncertainty, and begin individually however end collectively.

Keep away from End-to-Begin Undertaking Administration Practices

When some groups first start implementing agile, they cling to their sequential mindset and finish-to-start actions with a sequence of activity-focused sprints. They use one iteration for evaluation and design, a second for coding, and a 3rd for testing. The crew is break up in thirds, with the analysts working one dash forward of the programmers and the testers working one dash behind them.

This is usually a very alluring strategy for groups who’re new to agile or Scrum. Not solely does it seemingly remedy the issue of find out how to overlap work but it surely additionally permits every sort of specialist to work principally with others of their very own variety, which many are used to doing.

Sadly, the identical disadvantages apply to activity-specific sprints as apply to activity-specific groups: too many hand-offs and an absence of whole-team accountability.

Exercise-specific sprints create what are referred to as finish-to-start relationships. In a finish-to-start relationship, one activity should end earlier than the subsequent can begin.

For instance, a Gantt chart on a sequential undertaking could present that evaluation should end earlier than coding can begin and that coding should end earlier than testing can begin.

Skilled agile groups be taught that this isn’t true; many actions may be overlapped.

In agile tasks what’s essential just isn’t when duties begin however once they end. Coding can not end till evaluation finishes and testing can not end till coding finishes. These are referred to as finish-to-finish relationships.

Embrace Uncertainty

To start out a activity whereas a associated activity just isn’t but completed, the crew must turn out to be prepared to work round uncertainty and open points briefly.

The important thing factor for crew members to grasp is that whereas they finally want a solution to these points, they don’t all the time want the reply earlier than beginning work on a product backlog merchandise. As an alternative, they will share sufficient data (for instance on the every day scrum) for different crew members to get began.

For instance, suppose a crew is engaged on a consumer story, “As a consumer, I’m logged out after n minutes of inactivity.”

Earlier than that story may be thought-about full, somebody goes to want to determine how lengthy n is–Half-hour? 12 hours? However, somebody may completely start work on that story with out the reply.

As soon as crew members absolutely grasp that some solutions may be realized in the course of the iteration, they turn out to be way more prepared to stay with the uncertainty that’s wanted to observe the overlapping work of concurrent engineering.

That is an iterative and incremental strategy to undertaking administration: Get a number of particulars from the customers about what they want after which construct somewhat of it; construct somewhat after which check what you’ve constructed.

The objective must be to begin the dash with simply sufficient data that the crew can barely end every product backlog merchandise. Staff members ought to really feel that in the event that they needed to resolve even yet another open concern in the course of the dash, they might not have completed that product backlog merchandise.

Begin Individually However End Collectively

Some individuals argue that to keep up a holistic perspective, sure actions (e.g., consumer expertise design, database design, and structure) should occur upfront.

I argue that we should always assume holistically however work iteratively. A technique to try this is to stagger when sure actions begin.

With an agile strategy to work, it doesn’t a lot matter when every crew member begins on a product backlog merchandise. What issues is that all of them end collectively, or as near it as sensible. In a 10-day iteration, one crew member could begin coding a consumer story on day six and one other begins creating assessments on day eight. Their objective, nonetheless, is to complete collectively on day ten.

I equate this to operating a race round a 400-meter monitor as within the Olympics. As a result of exterior lanes are progressively longer, runners in these lanes start the race additional forward bodily on the monitor. This ensures that every individual runs the identical distance and that they end on the similar place, making it attainable to evaluate the winner.

An agile crew can consider sure specialists (analysts, graphic designers, product designers) being within the exterior tracks within the improvement course of. They want a little bit of a head begin. (Sure, I do know in an actual operating race everybody begins operating on the similar time. However the beginning line for the skin monitor is “forward” of the within monitor.)

The analyst must establish what’s even being constructed. And the designer may have to offer wireframes, mockups or comparable beginning factors to the crew if the crew is to have any likelihood to construct and check the function inside a dash. So giving them a little bit of a head begin by having them look forward in direction of the work of the subsequent iteration is a good suggestion.

Observe that I stated “a little bit of a head begin.” The designer doesn’t work aside from the crew or work three sprints forward. The designer is totally on the crew and the designer’s main accountability helps the crew in any means attainable to complete the dedicated work of the present dash. They only go away sufficient capability to stay up for the subsequent dash.

A superb product proprietor does the identical factor. A crew is in bother if the product proprietor is so buried by the work of the present dash that the product proprietor arrives on the subsequent dash planning assembly with out having given any thought to what to work on subsequent.

Sure roles on an agile crew must be wanting considerably forward. They need to look forward solely so far as crucial, however some peering ahead by product house owners, analysts, or designers is useful.

How Do You Do It?

How does your crew obtain the objective of overlapping work utilizing parts of concurrent engineering? Please share your ideas within the feedback part under.

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