I attended the PPDMQ2 Houston Luncheon last month where Meena Sunderam, from BP, discussed data management challenges and emphasized the frequent disconnect between the business and IT. He discussed key challenges of the business’s perception of the IT department when it is responsible for delivering data management projects:
- Ultimately the project does not meet the business need.
- IT is too slow to deliver.
- The business feels compelled to use Excel as a work-around.
- Inevitably “shadow IT” solutions are built without IT involvement.
I would like to propose an approach for addressing these issues by borrowing methodology from the Project Management world. As a project manager, the challenges of “not meeting the need” and “too slow to deliver” strike a chord with me because they are classic symptoms of failed waterfall projects. Agile project management methodologies have evolved with specific intent to address commonly perceived failures of waterfall projects by:
- Capturing requirements in the user’s terms
- Using short iterations (2-4 weeks)
- Delivering a usable product frequently
- Closing the feedback loop
- Continuously improving
In waterfall methodology, the process is highly linear: sequential phases follow one after the other. Typically, requirements are gathered and documented up-front. Once the requirements are defined they are then “set in stone” for the implementation phase. For long (multiple months) duration IT projects, the likelihood that nothing in the business will change over the duration of the project is highly unlikely. Furthermore, due to the human element of any project, it is also very likely that something will be inadvertently overlooked in the initial requirements and that could have a significant impact on project outcome. An agile approach addresses these concerns in three key ways:
- Delivering something usable after every iteration.
- Involving the business stakeholders in the process continuously and frequently.
- Allowing the requirements to change after each iteration.
While agile is classically associated with software development projects, it is a conceptual methodology that is applicable to management of any project. Further adoption of agile approaches in the corporate IT environment would be very beneficial to the success of IT projects. At Entrance, we use agile scrum methodology across all of our projects because we strongly believe that it ultimately gets our clients what they really want in the most cost efficient and timely manner.