Milestone-Driven Agile Execution

Milestone-Driven Agile Execution

Eduardo Miranda (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4165-4.ch001
OnDemand PDF Download:
Available
$37.50
No Current Special Offers
TOTAL SAVINGS: $37.50

Abstract

This chapter introduces a hybrid software development framework, called Milestone-Driven Agile Execution, in which the empirical process control and the just-in-time planning of tasks of agile development are retained but the prioritization of the backlog is done according to a macro or strategic plan that drives the execution of the project. Selecting work items from the product backlog according to a plan instead of following the immediate concerns of a product owner adds visibility, predictability, and structure to the work of the team while preserving the adaptive advantages of agile development.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

Whether traditional or agile, any project of any size or consequence needs a high-level plan that allows everyone to contribute towards the desired outcome. According to Brechner (2015), this plan can take many forms but will typically include a vision for what the end product will look like, a technical strategy, and a schedule with the dates of key events (conferences, press announcements, or launch), expected dates for when major product capabilities must come together and target metrics (such as performance, scale, or participation) must be reached.

Without such a plan, project members struggle with what to do next and stakeholders with what to expect when. Cohn (2010), for example, suggests the use of a release plan, without which teams move endlessly from one iteration to the next and Cockburn (2004), a coarse-grained project plan, possibly created from a project map or a set of stories and releases to make sure the project is delivering suitable business value for suitable expense in a suitable time period.

The Milestone Driven Agile Execution (MDAX), see Figure 1, is a hybrid software management framework (Kneuper, 2018; Kuhrmann, et al., 2017) where the empirical process control and the just-in-time planning of tasks advocated by agile methods are retained, but the prioritization of the backlog is done according to a macro or strategic plan instead of being driven by the immediate concerns or impulses of the product owner. Selecting work items from the backlog according to a plan adds visibility, predictability, and structure to the work of the team while preserving the adaptive advantages of agile development. MDAX is method agnostic in the sense that the development approach, much like an app running in a Java Virtual Machine, is not encoded in its mechanics, but rather in the plan that drives it. This allows organizations using MDAX to choose the development approach that suits them best.

The technique proposed to create the macro or strategic plan that will drive the project work is called milestone planning (Andersen, 1996; Andersen, Grude, & Haug, 2009). In this planning approach, a plan for a project is formulated not in terms of the tasks that make it up, but in terms of the relevant states or sub-objectives the project must go through on its way to achieving its objective, such as the website information architecture is approved, a basic version of the app is released, a necessary piece of hardware is made available to the project, and so forth. In other words, the plan outlines the chosen strategy but does not dictate the tasks that ought to be executed to realize it, which will be decided as work progresses. As relevant states synthetize the results of the (usually) many tasks necessary to reach them, there will be fewer of them than the corresponding tasks, making milestone plans more robust and easier to produce and communicate.

Figure 1.

Milestone driven agile execution

978-1-7998-4165-4.ch001.f01

For space reasons, it is not possible to provide a complete and equally detailed description of all aspects of the method, so in what follows, we will focus on what is novel or unique about the approach and assume the reader has a basic understanding of Scrum, which will allow him or her to fill in the blanks in the cases where we have borrowed a established practice or concept from another method. In the Background section, we will introduce the Milestone Plan and the Work Package Schedule constructs. In the MDAX Framework section, we will provide a detailed description of MDAX in terms of its roles, activities, meetings, and artifacts. In the section Planning and Knowledge Sharing as Motivational Tools, we will discuss what makes MDAX work and the visual milestone planning technique at the core of the approach. In the Milestone Planning Example, we will walk the reader through the entire planning process, and in the last section, Conclusion, we will provide a summary of the framework and its advantages.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Milestone Plan: A plan for a project formulated in terms of the relevant states or sub-objectives the project must go through on its way to achieve its objective, not the the tasks that must be executed to achieve them.

Iteration Backlog: A list of all the WIs to be worked on in the present iteration plus the tasks required for their realization.

Look-Ahead Backlog: A precedence-ordered list of all the WIs ready, or in the process of being readied, to be executed in upcoming iterations.

Project Backlog: A hierarchical enumeration of all the outputs: functionality, documentation, infrastructure, gadgets, services, and so on, to be delivered to the customer to meet the project objectives, and the work necessary to produce them. Each descending level represents an increasingly detailed definition of the project work.

Hard Milestones: Milestones that, if not accomplished by a set date, usually externally imposed, lose all or most of their value or result in severe penalties.

Work Package: The set of work items associated with a milestone.

Work Item: Any element in the project backlog.

Milestone: An event that marks the realization of an outcome, the attainment of a verifiable and relevant project state, or the fulfillment of a commitment made to the team.

Soft Milestones: Milestones whose completion dates result from the planning process. They might be associated with penalties or other liabilities after a statement of work is agreed upon, but, in principle, they are discretionary.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset