Whenever there's a need to garner an expert opinion on the topic of application lifecycle management, the first expert TheServerSide turns to is TaskTop's Mik Kersten. The reason we reached out to Kersten was because we were putting together a number of articles on the topic of scaling Agile software development methodologies and wanted to know what users in the field were doing to make distributed development work.
The challenge of scaling Agile
And we're not talking here about teams of ten or twelve developers who occasionally work from home. We're talking about an organization where the number of code contributors, not to mention the various testers, business analysts, operations personnel and architects, counts well into triple digits. Of course, we wanted Kersten to give us the secret on how to make Agile to work at scale. Unfortunately, he simply agreed that scaling Agile on a massive scale is indeed a problem. "Agile has a ceiling in terms of the number of developers you can throw on to an Agile program before it stops doing what Agile is supposed to do."
Of course, that's not to say our conversation was completely devoid of strategies for making Agile scale. Quite the opposite was true, as Kersten pointed at a couple of weak links in the Agile chain that need strengthened when the projects hits a certain critical mass, with the most obvious one being the feedback cycle. On small projects, it's easy to identify who the users are, where they are, and how to get feedback to the team, but the ease of providing feedback seems to diminish as the project gets bigger and bigger. "Organizations have to go Agile. But if it takes you 12 weeks to get things into production, and it takes 12 weeks to get feedback to the development team, you're not very Agile as an organization."
At the end of February we published an article based on our talk with TaskTop's CEO, which is certainly worth a read for anyone doing Agile at scale:
And there's also a podcast of our conversation which is really worth a listen:
TaskTop Gateway: Making the DevOps transformation happen
However, there was an extra piece of the puzzle we didn't mention in our podcast, nor is it mentioned in the article, and it pertains to how the newly released TaskTop Gateway will allow TaskTop Sync and TaskTop Data solutions to adapt to more seamlessly address many of the issues surrounding the challenges of Software Lifecycle Integration and end-to-end software delivery. The focus on end-to-end software delivery is especially pertinent here, as one of the limitations of Agile is the fact that is too often focuses solely on the development aspect of software delivery. As Kersten emphasized in our interview, many of the challenges encountered when scaling agile can be addressed by focusing not just on the development task, but on the value stream as whole.
So what exactly does the TaskTop Gateway do? According to the press release, "this new capability allows organizations to automate the connection between their DevOps automation tools and their lifecycle management tools, providing enterprise organizations with an end-to-end." I haven't had a chance myself to test it out, but given TaskTop's track record of Eclipse Mylyn development along with the work they've done simplifying the software development tool-chain, I'm confident it will live up to the DevOps Tranformation hype surrounding it.
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