Why Overlapping Work & Concurrent Engineering Are Key to Agility

One of many 12 rules within the Agile Manifesto is “Working software program (or product) is the first measure of progress.” That’s why agile groups (e.g. Scrum groups) whether or not creating software program or every other product, work collectively to ship one thing of worth to their buyer every iteration.

For this to occur, agile groups embrace concurrent engineering. Concurrent engineering (or simultaneous engineering) is a approach of working the place duties overlap, quite than occurring in a sequence of phased handoffs.

The Primary Advantage of Concurrent Engineering

Distinction overlapping work with sequential engineering, the place product improvement work occurs in phases. For instance, on a software program undertaking, we’d have an evaluation part adopted by a design part adopted by a coding part and finally a testing part. On the finish of every part, work is handed off to the following particular person or staff with the talents to finish the following part of labor.

If that occurred on an agile software program improvement undertaking, it would take 4 iterations earlier than a staff may ship one thing to the client!

So cross-functional agile groups as an alternative collaborate to finish all actions essential to ship a product increment inside a time-bound iteration (typically known as a dash). The varied sorts of labor overlap.

Utilizing the earlier instance, on an agile staff, as one developer is designing a consumer interface, a second staff member begins coding the performance, and a 3rd developer begins to create checks for the performance. All inside the identical iteration!

On the finish of the iteration, high-performing agile groups are capable of ship a totally conceptualized, designed, created, and examined increment of worth to their buyer.

Concurrent engineering hastens product improvement and time to market–not as a result of groups are working sooner or more durable, however as a result of they’re able to get small chunks of accomplished performance into the palms of their customers sooner. This provides organizations an amazing aggressive benefit, and is without doubt one of the many causes firms undertake an agile methodology to start with.

To make concurrent engineering work, agile groups should do three issues: Keep away from finish-to-start relationships, embrace uncertainty, and begin individually however end collectively.

Keep away from End-to-Begin Challenge Administration Practices

When some groups first start implementing agile, they cling to their sequential mindset and finish-to-start actions with a sequence of activity-focused sprints. They use one iteration for evaluation and design, a second for coding, and a 3rd for testing. The staff is break up in thirds, with the analysts working one dash forward of the programmers and the testers working one dash behind them.

This generally is a very alluring method for groups who’re new to agile or Scrum. Not solely does it seemingly remedy the issue of overlap work however it additionally permits every sort of specialist to work largely with others of their very own variety, which many are used to doing.

Sadly, the identical disadvantages apply to activity-specific sprints as apply to activity-specific groups: too many hand-offs and an absence of whole-team accountability.

Exercise-specific sprints create what are often called finish-to-start relationships. In a finish-to-start relationship, one activity should end earlier than the following can begin.

For instance, a Gantt chart on a sequential undertaking might present that evaluation should end earlier than coding can begin and that coding should end earlier than testing can begin.

Skilled agile groups be taught that this isn’t true; many actions may be overlapped.

In agile initiatives what’s essential is just not when duties begin however after they end. Coding can not end till evaluation finishes and testing can not end till coding finishes. These are often called finish-to-finish relationships.

Embrace Uncertainty

To begin a activity whereas a associated activity is just not but completed, the staff must change into keen to work round uncertainty and open points quickly.

The important thing factor for staff members to grasp is that whereas they ultimately want a solution to these points, they don’t at all times want the reply earlier than beginning work on a product backlog merchandise. As an alternative, they’ll share sufficient data (for instance on the day by day scrum) for different staff members to get began.

For example, suppose a staff is engaged on a consumer story, “As a consumer, I’m logged out after n minutes of inactivity.”

Earlier than that story may be thought of full, somebody goes to want to determine how lengthy n is–Half-hour? 12 hours? However, somebody may completely start work on that story with out the reply.

As soon as staff members totally grasp that some solutions may be discovered throughout the iteration, they change into rather more keen to dwell with the uncertainty that’s wanted to observe the overlapping work of concurrent engineering.

That is an iterative and incremental method to undertaking administration: Get just a few particulars from the customers about what they want after which construct a bit of of it; construct a bit of after which take a look at what you’ve constructed.

The aim needs to be to start out the dash with simply sufficient data that the staff can barely end every product backlog merchandise. Staff members ought to really feel that in the event that they needed to resolve even another open difficulty throughout the dash, they may not have completed that product backlog merchandise.

Begin Individually However End Collectively

Some folks argue that to take care of a holistic perspective, sure actions (e.g., consumer expertise design, database design, and structure) should occur upfront.

I argue that we should always suppose holistically however work iteratively. A method to do this is to stagger when sure actions begin.

With an agile method to work, it doesn’t a lot matter when every staff member begins on a product backlog merchandise. What issues is that all of them end collectively, or as near it as sensible. In a 10-day iteration, one staff member might begin coding a consumer story on day six and one other begins creating checks on day eight. Their aim, nevertheless, is to complete collectively on day ten.

I equate this to working a race round a 400-meter monitor as within the Olympics. As a result of outdoors lanes are progressively longer, runners in these lanes start the race additional forward bodily on the monitor. This ensures that every particular person runs the identical distance and that they end on the identical place, making it attainable to evaluate the winner.

An agile staff can consider sure specialists (analysts, graphic designers, product designers) being within the outdoors tracks within the improvement course of. They want a little bit of a head begin. (Sure, I do know in an actual working race everybody begins working on the identical time. However the beginning line for the surface monitor is “forward” of the within monitor.)

The analyst must determine what’s even being constructed. And the designer may have to supply wireframes, mockups or comparable beginning factors to the staff if the staff is to have any probability to construct and take a look at the characteristic inside a dash. So giving them a little bit of a head begin by having them look forward in direction of the work of the following iteration is a good suggestion.

Notice that I stated “a little bit of a head begin.” The designer doesn’t work other than the staff or work three sprints forward. The designer is completely on the staff and the designer’s main accountability helps the staff in any approach attainable to complete the dedicated work of the present dash. They only go away sufficient capability to stay up for the following dash.

A great product proprietor does the identical factor. A staff is in hassle if the product proprietor is so buried by the work of the present dash that the product proprietor arrives on the subsequent dash planning assembly with out having given any thought to what to work on subsequent.

Sure roles on an agile staff should be trying considerably forward. They need to look forward solely so far as essential, however some peering ahead by product homeowners, analysts, or designers is useful.

How Do You Do It?

How does your staff obtain the aim of overlapping work utilizing parts of concurrent engineering? Please share your ideas within the feedback part beneath.

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