.NET and Good Software

I have found a post on the State of the .NET Culture. It reminds me on a project which I did recently in the role of the Scrum Master. There were some .NET developers in the team. We took over a large website that was running on Sharepoint and that was developed by another supplier for a fixed price. Our goal was to get it under control and to deliver regular releases to the live environment. The code was not very good and there were no automated tests. We started with the first Sprints and could see very soon, that we cannot deliver the expected velocity.

The developers had no expecience with the XP software engineering practices. No test driven development. No refactoring. Although visual studio has some build-in refactorings, they did not use it. We were trying to find the .NET developers on the market with this background, but were not successful. What I also found difficult to handle was Sharepoint. In order to have a developer to start developing, you need a Windows Server with a Sharepoint on it. It was difficult to set up. All that lead us to the conclusion, that we should replatform the website to Java or PHP.

Yes, of course the software was bad quality in the first place. Maybe with the right skills to build good .NET software one can be a well paid developer. Microsoft makes it very hard to achieve this. With a JDK, Eclipse and Maven I can be much quicker. But maybe that’s possible on .NET too?

Veröffentlicht in English, IT-Consulting

Agile Architecture

A few weeks ago I had a nice chat with a senior manager in a large IT organization. This company is transforming to agile methods, first in R&D and now in IT. He is part of the enterprise architecture and IT governments group. His fear is that with more and more agile teams, the group wont have an influence on the project’s architecture decisions.

One can argue that in the pure agile world, the architecture does no come from architects. It will be done during the project from the team. Okay. What level of architecture are we talking about? System architecture or enterprise architecture? These are different levels of planning. One build houses and the others plan the city.

But what is the goal of enterprise architecture? Is it that just the projects have to follow a plan? No. The goal is that the architecture supports the projects, that future projects have less costs assigned. In agile words: the enterprise architecture must improve the velocity of a team. Hence enterprise architects are stakeholders. They must work with the product owner to on long term goals.

I honestly think that the enterprise architecture must get its input from the business strategy. If you have a business strategy that is somehow a longterm goal of the business, you can align the architecture to it. But which company has a well defined strategy? Sometimes the business does not have a strategy. All they say is that IT must be flexible. What if in an agile company the enterprise architectures takes a main source of input from the projects. Enterprise architects work in the project with the team and the product owner to form its high level plans for the architecture. Yes – enterprise architects must get involved.

Veröffentlicht in Agile, English

The powers of the Scrum Master

A Scrum Master is a role that is supposed to support the Scrum Team. In general a Scrum Team is a self-organizing system. Systems can be stable or instable. I would see a Scrum Master as the one who is responsible to stabilize the system. A Scrum Team should also follow a goal, that is somehow a lower level goal of an organization, i.e. the company that the Scrum Teams works for. It’s also a resposibility of the Scrum Master, but mainly of the Product Owner, that the goal of the team is in line with the company’s goal.

Having said that, we cannot describe the Scrum Master as a servant of the team. He is a servant, but he is more than that. A Scrum Master must have a potetial to influence the team members. According to business sciences we have five sources of power:

  1. legitimisation
  2. rewards
  3. punishment
  4. personal charisma
  5. expert knowledge

Which of the sources of power can be used? To create a self-organizing team, the Scrum Master cannot use punishment, because that will kill it. The Scrum Master has the legitimation to control the Scrum Rules. But the rules are made by the team and the team may choose rules that lead to the wrong direction. The Scrum Master must lead – with personality, knowledge and rewards.

Veröffentlicht in Agile, English

Technical Debt

I found the blog of Bredex, a small company in the north of Germany I have worked 10 years before. They started to blog last year and have quite some nice posts on it. One post diskusses whether feature driven development is a double edged sword. Alex wrote that they experienced in a project that focusing on feature delivery is causing problems in the software quality. Refactorings that must be done to keep the software maintainable will not be done, because the team wants to deliver features. Yes – that is the main goal of agile software development – deliver a high business value quickly.

Recent financial crises must teach us another aspect. We can live a high quality live on the cost of the future. Some like to overspend and increase their debt. The same you can find in software projects. If you try to deliver as much features as you can, you will increase your technical debt. Even without much pressure from as business department a team can be overcommitted and will deliver features on the cost of quality. The bad quality can be visible to the customer, due to too many defects in the delivery, or it can be unvisible due to an awkward design. The last one is technical debt.The first one – high defect rates are usually tackled with proper conventional quality assurance. The technical debt can be tackled with contiuous refactoring.

But how can you measure your technical debt? By automated tools that output software quality metrics. One of these tools is dependometer – Valtech’s open source solution. Another very good tool is Sonar from codehaus.

If you are planning a sprint and you have delivered 15 story point and your technical debt is not increasing, then you are running on a reasonable velocity. But if the quality metrics show you an increase of the technical debt, then you are too fast and you should put less story points into your next sprint and plan tasks to refactor or clean up the code.

Some questions pop into my mind now: How do I explain this to the customer? If I report the velocity, they will see a drop of it. So better not to report the velocity? Or start with a low pace assuming that you can get faster in later sprints? Maybe we can report the quality metrics too – defect rates and technical debt. It really depends on our customer’s nature.

Veröffentlicht in Agile, English, IT-Consulting

I’m on Twitter now

Okay – I’m very late. But from today I’m a registered user on twitter.

And all I can see is the following page:

twitter.PNG

Veröffentlicht in News