There was a time when organizations lacked proper tools and processes to keep pace with the changing requirements and scope, and development often dragged for years past the deadline. By the time, software reached business stakeholders, it was either outdated or not what they had expected.
Today, Agile and DevOps have transformed software development, allowing frequent releases to meet business goals and objectives with increased consistency and reliability. However, Agile and DevOps aren’t the same in practice as they are in theory. Project managers can still struggle to keep track of time, quality, and cost parameters especially with constant flux in scope.
In the hyper-competitive landscape, businesses have to be on their toes to meet ever-evolving customer expectations. It creates an acute need for increased flexibility in development to accommodate new features or adapt to evolving business needs. However, for project managers, it is not easy to maintain consistent velocity and quality with ‘moving goalposts.’
Many times, balancing consistency with adaptability gets challenging. We will discuss these challenges and how agile teams can overcome them using an early warning system that helps in responding early, planning better, and making incremental improvements in productivity.
Why is keeping software development on track difficult?
One of the core challenges with software development has always been about making accurate estimates about the time required to complete a certain task with given resources. Agile processes have allowed teams to prioritize their tasks based on story points, which add a certain degree of visibility in terms of time and effort involved in every task. By breaking down the entire development process into smaller sprints, the chances of large-scale failures and delays are reduced. However, as organizations seek higher agility, they are discovering that there’s still a large room for improvement in these processes.
Inaccurate time and effort estimates
Estimating story points is one of the hardest skills for development teams. It is not rare for new members to underestimate task requirements and later on struggle to meet their own deadlines during development. What they assume requires a quick fix often turns out to be a night-long exercise. In addition to unexpected bugs, numerous issues related to design and integration, and even governance, security, or compliance processes can create bottlenecks.
Burnout and its impact on the quality
It is seen that in most organizations, developers easily overexert themselves; in a survey of technology companies, ~57% of respondents reported that they experienced burnout at their workplace. While overworked developers can hypothetically still deliver quality and meet timelines, the chances of oversights or developers taking shortcuts for meeting their timelines increase. Though underestimating the effort is a common error, as remedy developers often start overestimating their effort to keep enough margin for contingencies. Eventually, inaccurate assessment of effort prevents teams from achieving their best.
Inefficient management of spillovers
As discussed above, wrong estimates of effort and resulting burnouts often lead teams into retrospective meetings where they discover spillovers. A lot of valuable time is spent just to discuss uncompleted stories, understand who is responsible, and then plan future sprints accommodating the stories from the previous backlog. Sometimes such meetings get ugly with all the finger-pointing, without any noticeable progress towards managing or reducing the spillovers. The end result is ineffective backlog grooming and sprint planning.
Insufficient data-driven visibility into a project’s health
It has become common for team members to work from different time zones and contribute to the same git, as per their convenience. There are numerous collaboration tools that help teams coordinate and plan their work better. In case they face challenges, they can raise tickets, which are often routed immediately, and sometimes even resolved automatically, using advanced ticketing tools. Further, even the simplest of DevOps pipelines have multiple integrations. Making all these tools work in tandem is a challenge in itself.
Moreover, as the data for the assessment of project velocity and developer productivity is spread across different tools, it is not easy to correlate it. As a result, project managers often get overwhelmed with manual tracking of various aspects of development and the bottlenecks faced by developers. There are also times when frequently changing client requirements (or scope), priorities, and delayed approvals are not captured effectively, creating a blind spot for managers.
Difficulties in tracking KPIs/metrics
In the end, it’s the quality and availability of data that can help managers steer their projects effectively. There are metrics such as active days, code churn, lead time, cycle time, velocity, code coverage, Net Promoter Score (NPS), etc. that can help them assess their project health and progress. However, selecting, measuring, and analyzing these metrics isn’t simple. The diverse data from disparate tools for determining these metrics creates several aggregation, normalization, and analytics-related challenges. There’s no single pane of glass to monitor different software development metrics. Moreover, sometimes the data isn’t captured regularly due to lack of automation.
The undesirable end-result is that projects get delayed, despite the combined efforts of Agile coaches and project managers towards implementing Agile best practices.
Is there a way forward?
As discussed, steering a software project in the right direction with control isn’t easy. There are various factors, both internal and external, which can derail a project from its track. However, effective monitoring across tools can help teams to deliver in a predictable manner. With early detection of bottlenecks, they can take remedial actions to resolve issues quickly. Further, with end-to-end visibility into the development lifecycle, project managers can also adapt and respond to changing business requirements confidently.
How does Klera help?
Klera is a unique low-code platform, which helps in collecting data from different tools (JIRA, ServiceNow, Bitbucket, SonarQube, Jenkins, Kubernetes, etc.) using pre-built, smart bi-directional connectors, and provides a unified view across the entire software development cycle. Product owners and managers can monitor various metrics and correlate KPIs to derive actionable insights. Klera makes it possible to monitor release, velocity and scope variance to track deviations from the normal patterns using graphical dashboards and using intelligent algorithms, predict the potential new release date if the current trajectory continues. It is also possible to define business rules based on performance metrics and business risks, that trigger actions or alerts that are sent to your preferred collaboration tool (Pagerduty, Slack etc.) as “early warnings.” With various charts and graphs tracking numerous metrics in an automated way, one can understand a project’s progress over a period, spot issues, and click to drill-down and troubleshoot bottlenecks and assess impact of course corrections.
As Klera makes it possible to readily connect and write-back to different DevOps tools, the possibilities are endless depending on who is using the platform. For instance, it talks to source code management tools allowing developers to get early warning on potential conflicts across branches. This helps in saving significant time in merging and code reviews. Similarly, operations teams can synchronize tools such as JIRA and ServiceNow to prioritize issues and automatically assign tickets to the right teams for quick resolution. To conclude, Klera’s versatility, ease of integration with tools, and advanced insights allow you to get early visibility and better control over your software development lifecycle. Eventually, it helps you create an early warning system, which tracks project deviations and enables a fine balance between consistency and adaptability. Learn more about Klera’s potential here.