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Why scaling Agile development calls for DevOps toolchain integration

Learn how Tasktop is battling the cost of scaling Agile development and the DevOps toolchain by integrating top tools.

Scaling Agile development is, typically, a costly and inefficient process for two main reasons: one, the widespread use of various -- not single-vendor development -- tools in the DevOps toolchain; and, two, the need in Agile and DevOps for team coordination.

"The problem is that the cost of connecting all the tools in their [DevOps] toolchain is going to exceed the cost of delivering some of our applications," said Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop technologies Inc. Addressing the problem of scaling Agile development, his team created Tasktop Integration Hub, a unified suite which, simply put, integrates application lifecycle management (ALM) tools and provides a centralized view of a company's application development lifecycle.

In this interview, Kersten talks about scaling Agile development, the evolution of the DevOps toolchain and the future of both methodologies.

Mik Kersten, CEO, TasktopMik Kersten

He also explains how Tasktop Integration Hub fits into these scenarios.

Looking at the software development lifecycle and the DevOps toolchain today, one sees a lot of separate, moving parts. How does this impact the complexity of scaling Agile development?

Mik Kersten: There are all these tools, but none of them work together well. None of them talk to each other out of the box.

What people told us is that their businesses can't remain competitive at scale without value stream integration, where you connect all those parts. And, most importantly, businesses need to keep tools, apps and information updated continually. Then, everyone on the DevOps team needs visibility.

Everyone on the DevOps team needs visibility.
Mik KerstenCEO, Tasktop

People have seen that their businesses can't succeed in their digital transformation without a tool that allows us to plug everything in. And then [connecting everything] will allow them to scale that model to all the other project areas, to all the other lines of business. That would really make the impact that [businesses are] after, to get the ROI that we're after from this transformation.

What does the model-based approach of the Tasktop Integration Hub do to unite the DevOps toolchain?

Kersten: With this model-based approach, we could create a whole new web user interface with a visual integration designer. The whole thing's completely visual, and the skill set required for the common integrations are at just the administrator level. The interface makes it very easy to start connecting a value stream, put that into production quickly and then add more projects, more tools and more systems.

What is the skill set needed to scale Agile development and connect the DevOps toolchain using Integration Hub?

Kersten: A lot of the transformations have fallen apart and failed to deliver value because connecting the value stream has required a skill set that's too hard. Some organizations think they can just connect the tools, do the API work and so on. Then, they realize that connecting four tools to each other creates exponential problems, like too many API calls.

We targeted the skill level of an administrator of an Agile tool. [A Hewlett Packard Enterprise] ALM administrator could set it all up. The interface gives them all of the guidance that they need. And the integrations with some of the DevOps tools, it's really targeted to a DevOps engineer, who can connect things without doing a whole bunch of work … and no coding. So, that's been the core thing: to make this be easy to use.

Tasktop Integration Hub for DevOps and Agile transformation

Will the DevOps methodology have the staying power to merit investments in it?

Kersten: The quick answer is DevOps is here to stay. Hopefully, we all take it for granted in 10 years when everyone's got fully automated testing and continuous delivery.

If we look back at the methodologies in IT, we see that many have become standards. On the operations side, [IT Infrastructure Library] is not going away. Forms of scaled Agile are here to stay as well, whether it's SAFe or Nexus or something else. There are a bunch of old-school methodologies, like [Product Management Body of Knowldge], that have long life spans.

Methodologies are very slow to go away. People don't want to admit that they still have Waterfall in their stack, but they do. Most large organization's maintenance software still has some aspects of Waterfall.

We always are layering on these methodologies, and transformations don't happen overnight. Then again, everyone knows we need to get to more Lean styles of delivery, and Agile and DevOps embody that. That's why they're here to stay.

Even after choosing Agile or DevOps practices, organizations have to choose between a number of options.

Kersten: Yes. The organization has to select the right set of methodologies -- whether it's more Lean, more toward DevOps, more toward two-week sprints and so on. The key is to get the whole organization on the [chosen methodology] end to end. That drives faster innovations.

Then, once an organization starts to scale Agile development, there's always an exercise in combining the different methodologies and transforming them.

Next Steps

Moving Agile development beyond small-scale projects

When software development projects grow, does Agile fail?

Moving Agile into enterprise-size projects: Best practices

This was last published in March 2017

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Which approaches to scaling Agile development have worked well or failed for your organization or in your projects?
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As a development lead I design solution that begin with integration at the front of mind. I believe the tools that support the DevOps should facilitate what we build and a struggle to be successful is real when you're constantly having to "make" things work. The DevOps tools you choose need to be integration worry free. Unfortunately, contrary to your advertisement, I don't think third party tools make it more cost effective or easier. My personal experience is that TapTop specifically is licensed and priced in a way to make it significantly more expensive.
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Hello “Justsaying”-  I’m surprised you found Tasktop expensive, so many of our customers tell us that ROI is just a couple of weeks. But back to your other points, you are absolutely correct: it would be terrific if all tools used in software development/delivery worked together natively. Sadly, they don’t. If your organization is building complex software, chances are very good that you’ve put together a best-of-breed toolchain. Yes, some of these tools have integration capabilities to related tools. For example, CI/CD/version control tools typically work well together (maybe that’s what you were referring to when you said that integration among "DevOps tools” should be worry free). But there is never a native integration across the entire lifecycle from planning, through development and into production. This article talked about the need to integrate Agile and DevOps tooling to create a smooth flow of information across all. Please reach out if you’d like to talk more.
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Thanks for your feedback, Betty. I'd be happy to interview more customers, so feel free to send referrals.

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Actually we found Microsoft Team Foundation Server, while not perfect in all regards, more than delivers all of the Application Lifecycle Management tools in one fully integrated suite.
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That's good to know, and I appreciate your telling me. Could you let me know which other tools you prefer? I'd also be very happy to interview other experts on software lifecycle integration. Could you suggest some? Thanks for your feedback. 
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