Tomorrow’s advances in planting and harvesting operations, crop yield management, vehicle guidance and farm enterprise data management will be largely driven by Deere’s ability to rapidly develop and deploy new intellectual property, much of which will be embodied in software.
In enterprise settings such as Amazon, Google, Boeing and others, agile and lean software development methods have proven their ability to decrease time to market, as well as significantly improve quality and productivity of software development. To address the challenge of “developing more and better software, more quickly”, ISG is also adopting lean|agile development as its new software development paradigm
What Changes in Agile?
Agile development differs from its waterfall predecessors by dividing big projects into small deliverables that deliver value more quickly. Risk is mitigated as large projects are broken into smaller, more immediately evaluable increments. Funding is incremental. Software assets are built incrementally. As a system, software development is more responsive to changing market conditions. (For more insights on the rationale behind agile development, see http://www.rallydev.com/agileblog/2010/08/five-reasons-why-cios-should-consider-agile-development/).
Adopting agile development is a substantial change initiate for us. Functional silos between architecture, product management, development and test are broken down. Small, dedicated agile teams are being formed and aligned around products and features. The new role of “product owner” is being implemented to empower software teams to prioritize incoming work. Testing personnel are being dedicated to agile teams to accelerate the validation cycle. In this way, each small team has the ability and empowerment to “define/build/test” a thing of value for our customers. Teams are also being organized to deliver value in larger programs on an “Agile Release Train” model that provides cadence and synchronization of planning and software asset construction.
What Doesn’t Change in Agile?
While the teams and trains are empowered to deliver value, they do not, by themselves, determine the product and solution vision. That responsibility remains with product management and product marketing. However, the relationship with development is more tightly integrated with major initiatives aggregated around release planning milestones. Product, portfolio and program management must also evolve quickly to make crisper prioritization decisions and master the ability to break large initiatives into smaller chunks that can deliver value more quickly and avoid overloading the development teams with excessive work in process. So while these larger responsibilities don’t really change, the manner in which they are executed typically changes fairly dramatically.
Initiating an agile transformation at John Deere ISG scale is no small feat, but the business imperative demands we succeed. In order to thrive in the next decades, we must be as competent in building and deploying customer friendly software solutions as we are at building the worlds’ best agriculture and heavy construction equipment. At ISG, agile development is a big part of that equation.
If you would like to join our John Deere team, visit the John Deere career site and search for jobs in Iowa/Urbandale.
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