IBM: Fixed prices for IT projects are unethical

Big Blue’s Agile development guru, Scott Ambler, outlines for ProjectWorld 2008 attendees how he keeps the stakeholders happy and helps teams actually meet their deadlines

For Ambler, his process simply treats IT project requirements like a prioritized stack.

"We go to the top of the stack in two-week iterations and start working on it from there," he said. "You begin with the good stuff and eventually work your way to the stuff you rarely need. We have a higher success rate because at the end of the iteration, we have potentially shippable software."

The smarter executives, Ambler said, will often want to wrap up the project once they see all the useful features fully integrated. This means IT projects are finished sooner and you can gain increased confidence and funding from the stakeholders for future tasks.

"Because you are creating workable software, they can continue to fund the project until they see something they want to use," he said. "That means they're managing their IT investment like an investment and not like a gamble."

But as with any process change, the effects won't be seen immediately. James Kricfalusi, service delivery executive at TEKSystems, said it can take time for the process to take hold.

"Sponsors and executives equate agile with immediate results," he said. "This is not realistic. Trust the team, relax and let them do their thing. Lower your expectations in the beginning because most of the initial advances cannot be in the functionality of the first release."

According to Kricfalusi, in the early work on an Agile project, initial iterations are an investment in frameworks, new ideas, process definitions and understanding of the requirements. The initial release may miss the mark, but the team will have developed a cheap and effective means of providing effective feedback to improve later versions.

Judge the results relative to the time frame of the existing processes, Kricfalusi advised.

"If your prior project time frames were 6 months to a year, it will take about that long before you can have the proper perspective to evaluate your progress."

ProjectWorld 2008 wrapped up last Thursday.

--With files from IDG News Service

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