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Why Delivery Processes Are Needed
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The short answer to this question is obvious: hiring a new person to handle delivery for every x system is too expensive to maintain, and untenable for a development team going forward. Maintaining a knowledgebase on the individual delivery of dozens of individual systems going forward is equally untenable, as is maintaining an individual development and delivery environment for dozens of systems going forward.
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CHAPTER 1 A CONTEXT FOR DELIVERY
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The common factor in this answer is individual. Development is an individual activity: it is creative, it is based on knowing the domain you are in, and it is about craftsmanship rather than commodity (in the main). This is not necessarily a bad thing: the creativity, the skills, and the craft of developers provide us with elegant and innovative solutions to problems. In the development area, these things are in fact a boon. To harness and focus individuality in development, we create processes that ensure there is planning and product from the creative aspects of development work so that the customer and team management can understand what is happening with the money. And then guess what We do not quite remove the individuality from the delivery of the product to the customer. The innovative solution is developed on time but cannot be moved from the development area to the production area without a lot of effort, or with any confidence. The perception of the product is spoiled at the point it is at its highest profile to the customer as delivery begins and so the credibility of the product for the customer is damaged before they have even worked with it. Even when this works relatively well for a specific product, a development team handling multiple systems and subsystems will be quickly caught up in a never-ending set of issues relating to delivery. Conversely, removing creativity from the delivery of a product results in a set of known parts to the process. It can be specified, costed, measured, and assessed for success upon completion. Doing this requires defining a process for delivery. To define the processes for delivery, we need an understanding of the issues involved. We will spend the rest of the chapter considering these issues and the process itself. Before we do, consider the differences that a sound delivery process could make for you, your team, or your customers, as shown in Table 1-1. Table 1-1. Individual Delivery vs. Delivery Process
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Delivery effort setup cost CM activities Availability of system to customer System assets Time to perform release Response time for new release
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Individual Time/Comment
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Not done/guessed at 2 days Unknown/ad hoc 3 days prior to testing Most under source control Unknown/2 hrs As per queue
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Process Time/Comment
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3 hrs (with a script by script breakdown) 2 hrs (aligned to standard) Upon project commencement All assets controlled 257 seconds 257 seconds
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The responses shown in the table are a matter of context for your own team, but these represent the responses from teams I have worked with. The message is clear: delivery processes are required if you want a cost-effective, efficient, and professional software development life cycle. With many systems, the need is further accentuated.
The Etomic Situation
Etomic is a small company that can handle full project life cycles for small to medium (up to around 12 months of development effort) web- and Windows-based applications. Primarily, these projects are web based.
CHAPTER 1 A CONTEXT FOR DELIVERY
It has approximately 50 projects in-house in various stages of completion and with varying degrees of activity. These projects are handled by a team of 6 project managers, 24 analysts and developers, a handful of graphic designers, and a few system/network administrators. They are a busy team and have many satisfied customers. In particular: They receive considerable repeat business from customers. Projects have a tendency to be released on time and on schedule. Project life cycles tend to be extended longer than originally envisaged through a program of change initiated by customers. In short, customers tend to get what they want, and as a result, Etomic is a good place to work and has expanded significantly. Behind the scenes, though, lurk some problems. These problems have been brought on in many cases as a result of business successes. Only five years ago, it was a much smaller, fiveperson operation operating in a boutique style. Projects could be worked in a handcrafted style, and indeed they were. There was little concern as to the broader implications of handcrafting and the attention this needed. On the other hand, if every time an application is produced risk and complexity are added to the overall operation, then a number of things are occurring: More staff are required to administer the day-to-day activities, because everything begins to take time. More mistakes are made during routine operations such as development, archiving, bug fixing, building, and releasing. More pressure is placed on those striving to meet the same levels of customer satisfaction that have been previously achieved. There is a high risk that, ultimately, something will go wrong with an application that will be difficult to recover from. This could manifest itself in a number of ways: Estimates are too short and deadlines are missed as change takes a lot longer than originally thought. This could be owing to difficulty in obtaining assets, constructing environments, or maybe just the coding. The result is either an upset customer, or absorption of incurred cost, or quite possibly both. The stress on the team cannot be underestimated either, potentially leading to the loss of team members. A development server crashes and a backup is not available. Not every asset is stored in source control. The 30 projects that were on that server are in trouble. The result is serious stress for the team, and perhaps multiple instances of estimates being too short and deadlines being missed. Bob leaves. Oh dear. Bob s application only ran properly on his laptop, but he used to come in on a Sunday to handle live releases. No one is sure what he used to do. The result is more stress, and more estimation and cost problems. Once this sort of malaise is prevalent among the team, it can be hard to overcome.
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