Software & People: Lean software development

By : |July 11, 2011 0

BANGALORE, INDIA: Traipse down any large product company’s premises, and you will most likely encounter a team in a huddle, discussing the development of one of their business software products.

[image_library_tag 824/16824, align=”left” title=”” border=”0″ hspace=”5″ alt=”” vspace=”5″ width=”100″ height=”141″ ,default]In one such huddle, the scrum master and his team are visibly excited as four weeks of focused development has culminated in the recently concluded review meeting resulting in the successful conclusion of the latest sprint (development cycle), with appreciation from customers and senior management.

This is the new Lean Development Model at work, which focuses on activities that add value to the customer and eliminates activities that don’t. At the heart of the lean development model is scrum, an agile project management model that helps ensure success in projects where quickly changing requirements demand flexibility and agility. The fundamental goal is to develop usable software at the end of each sprint.

Each scrum team generally consists of 10 members and is cross-functional. Team members are all-rounders who can contribute across all stages of the software development lifecycle such as design, development, testing, and documentation.
Each sprint begins with a planning meeting to define the goal of the sprint and ends with a review meeting to evaluate the results.

During a sprint, the team huddles every morning for a short 15-minute scrum meeting to share information on what has been done, needs to be done and determine the blocks/obstacles in the way. To track and communicate progress of their development, they use innovative visual aids like burn-down charts that display the remaining efforts on planning boards, or even television monitors.


The scrum meetings are moderated by a scrum master who records blocks and helps the team to find solutions. The scrum master acts as a coach, motivator and facilitator and is vital to the success of the team. He keeps the team focused on their goals, coaches them to be self-organized and allows them to take their own decisions.
This is a typical example of ‘Empowered teams create amazing products!’

The product owner determines the functions of the team and defines and prioritizes the requirements for the product.

This journey towards lean software development requires changes across the organization and top management sponsorship. Key executives of the organization are made part of the teams that are driving the lean transformation.

Typically, a comprehensive 3-day training on lean development are designed and conducted across the development organization. Managers are nominated as trainers and coaches to help live the change. A consulting organization with experience in lean implementation is brought in to help guide and accelerate the transition towards lean software development.

Pilot projects are executed to study the effects of the new development model. Results from the pilots are measured early and often and are used to improve the lean development model. Success stories from the pilots are shared with the entire organization and this helps accelerate the mind-shift from traditional model of developing software to the new lean software development model.

Ultimately, what makes the Lean Development Model at SAP Labs successful is the strong focus on software and people.

(The author works at SAP Labs India as Associate Manager)
(The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CIOL)

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