152994631Since its creation in 2001, the Agile Manifesto has helped transform software development. Many organizations have embraced its iterative approach to development that facilitates the frequent release of working software in short sprints. Teams take on an attitude of “just enough.” For Agile developers, it is more important to deliver software to the clients quickly and often, than to spend a longer period of time perfecting a final product. The customer is able to provide intermittent feedback and developers can adapt accordingly before the last release. The idea is to fail early and fail fast.

Agile has proven itself to be a valuable approach in the Dev environment, but it has not yet been widely considered for IT Infrastructure. Can Infrastructure adapt Agile methods for their own teams to increase the frequency and speed of Infrastructure releases? Critics will argue that Agile is ill-suited to the conservative, risk-averse Infrastructure environment, and it might be if it is not tailored to the needs of individual Operation groups. However, if it is implemented correctly, an Agile approach is EXACTLY what Infrastructure needs to begin matching the agility and adaptability of the Business it supports.

When you remove development from the equation, Agile is simply a philosophy that values people and collaboration over processes and tools. A tool or process is only as effective as the individuals responsible for putting it to use.

Infrastructure is tasked with maintaining a stable environment, delivering new and enhanced functionality to the Business, and ensuring that internal and external regulations are met. It’s no wonder that IT governance is often over-built to protect against failure and outages. This might ensure good control, but also discourages change and makes it almost impossible for Infrastructure to match the speed of Business development, or to keep up with shifting Business priorities. This is where Agile can help.

When Infrastructure gets Agile, the result will be a faster time to market for Infrastructure release, without any sacrifice of control. The appropriate experts will be used advantageously to give the CIO greater confidence in approving more frequent change. IT will be able to embrace a culture of saying YES to the Business, because teams are in place to handle a higher rate of change without risking Infrastructure stability.

Perhaps the greatest value of Agile is in its approach to team collaboration. Walk into an Infrastructure department and you might be hard pressed to know who is working on what. When that shop gets Agile, every single project that Infrastructure takes on will be broken down into tasks, given task owners and deadlines, and moved along a visual board from start to complete. Visibility is increased amongst team members, and outside stakeholders will never have to ask twice about the status of a project.

There will be a massive payoff for Infrastructure teams willing to apply Agile to their change and release processes. The most significant benefits will be faster and more frequent releases and a reduction in change related incidents, but this only scratches the surface of Agile’s value. If you ever dismissed Agile as a philosophy reserved for developers, you should consider taking a second look.

To learn how your Infrastructure team can begin reaping the rewards of this approach, read Info-Tech’s solution set Deploy Changes More Rapidly by Going Agile.

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When we begin to look at project methodologies, best practices for running projects, many 101352155businesses are turning to Agile or Agile-like methods in order to find success with the deliverables. Over the past few years, Scrum has become so common that you regularly hear people using it synonymously with “Agile.” More recently however, Kanban appears to be the big buzz for many organizations.

Organizations that have mastered Scrum are beginning to move to Kanban. Many of the major Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) vendors are also adding Kanban features to their suites and solutions. How to work lean, or with continuous flow throughout your projects, often equates to the use of Kanban.

Let’s look at the principle phases throughout the application lifecycle that have dramatic affects on project success, regardless of team size, project type, etc.

Read more here: When looking at app PM methodologies, what considerations should I make?

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Agile ALM imageAs development platforms, coding methodologies, and devices proliferate, Agile ALM tools support integrations with an ever-increasing range of systems.

Long-standing vendors in the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) space can trace their roots to the 1980s, or even earlier. Since the 1990s, ALM tools have played a key part in the project manager’s arsenal, allowing him or her to track project status and progress towards objectives.

Managers have paid top dollar for ALM suites that could track project data and provide meaningful reporting. However, as development environments have evolved, the tools and components being used to manage this process have grown to become integrated and convenient, covering all phases of the development lifecycle including architecture, testing, and deployment with a single common interface.

Process flexibility has become key. Instead of a strict adherence to Agile or waterfall development, most firms have pursued a middle path and customized their methodology to meet their own needs. Some Agile ALM tools cater to the need for flexibility.

Quality control has become a core part of ALM. Several major ALM tools are built around testing tools and process maturity.

Going forward, expect stronger integration between ALM tools and the ecosystem of products supporting development, such as testing, PLM tools and IDEs.

For more information, please see Info-Tech’s recently released solution set on selecting an Agile ALM vendor.

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savingsCost control is a hot topic.

Info-Tech data from Q3 of 2011 indicates that over 40% of senior executives have made cost-management a strategic priority due to concerns about the economic environment. One of the key targets of their scrutiny is the applications portfolio. Managing and maintaining applications costs the typical enterprise about 40% of their overall IT budget.

So how can an applications manager go about trimming costs? Well, the good news is that there is a lot that we can do. The bad news is that most applications managers don’t actually focus on the right tactics. Most people think beating up major vendors on cost is the best approach. Info-Tech numbers indicate that applications managers might have better success starting with some other things.

We talked to IT managers about nine different applications cost control strategies. The four most effective included:

  1. Eliminating maintenance on non-core applications.
  2. Deploying zero-based budgeting to reduce waste.
  3. Introducing greater platform standardization.
  4. Triaging development based on effort, since support and maintenance account for between 10 and 20% of effort.

Other strategies can drive value when they are deployed individually, yet add little unique value when deployed in conjunction with the big four. These tactics include:

  1. Reducing the number of supported applications. These applications are generally identified during the decision to eliminate maintenance on non-core apps.
  2. Optimizing licensing costs paid to major vendors. Again, this reduction is largely accounted for by the identification of non-core apps.
  3. Shortening development cycles. This tactic can be important for demonstrating the value of applications to the rest of the organization, yet does little for overall cost reduction.
  4. Exploiting alternative delivery models such as SaaS. Effectively exploiting this strategy generally takes too long to be effective as a cost control strategy.
  5. Outsourcing development. Outsourcing is valuable for expanding a resource pool and for getting access to domain expertise, but it is rarely effective for cost management.

I should note that these tactics can be deployed for managing discretionary spend, but when it comes to major budget reductions of over 20%, you only have two options: cut people, or cut applications.

The detailed report is available at: Optimize Applications Cost Management

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