Agile requirements management: energy

Energy company creates a life cycle vision for new product development with an Agile approach

ORGANIZATION

Oil and gas companies face greater challenges as costs to operate continue to rise and reserves decrease. Because new product development is essential to remain competitive, one large energy supplier planned a global rollout of a software initiative to speed time to market. Given the unique characteristics associated with software development in the energy supplier’s commercial software organization and its respective business units, it was essential that it engage a transformation advisor that had a deep understanding of software development and technology, process, strategy, governance, and the successful management of a change of this magnitude. The primary objective is to establish is a broad product life cycle accommodating multiple development models. For many products, including software intensive products, the preferred development approach will be Agile.

ENVIRONMENT/CHALLENGE

A gated new product development (NPD) process was developed and implemented for all new products for the energy supplier’s system globally. A toll-gated NPD process is a parallel software development effort that compliments the client’s broader process, specifically focused on helping to ensure the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of the client’s efforts worldwide. The transition team began by laying the foundation for the discovery process, including a structured approach to interviewing management in all business units. As the project moved from discovery into the pilot phase, the team played a lead role in developing the foundational materials, templates, and artifacts associated with the process. The team was instrumental in developing critical assessment tools that allowed the supplier to clearly identify, understand, and plan for the challenges to implementation.

WHY AGILE?

One of the key instruments designed was the Agile assessment and maturity model. This tool enabled the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the Agile readiness of each of the business units in the client’s organization. The assessment enabled identification of gaps between the business unit’s current state and the level needed to effectively implement the key Agile-driven components of a toll-gated NPD process, including role coverage, expertise, and process maturity. From this gap analysis, strategies were formulated to address shortcomings in capabilities to use Agile, including skills training, coaching, and instruction on the Agile development process. A global rollout of a process like this involves significant organizational change. The transition team developed the change management strategy for this software development process that included the design of an organizational readiness survey and an executive level organizational change management questionnaire. The transition team assigned “change champions” from each of the business units and conducted change champion training and a risk management for project managers workshop. Throughout the transition, the team provided advice and direction on establishing communities of practice and other developmental and communications approaches, tools, and strategies critical to the effort. The transition team stayed with the effort by developing the data collection tools and being on point for the analysis of this data. In addition, they were responsible for developing the implementation plans and working closely with the organization’s management and business units on implementing those plans.

As part of the NPD life cycle, a new governance model was designed for the toll-gated NPD process that helped ensure the sustainability of the plan going forward from being simply a “project” to a way of doing business. Through the use of early organizational readiness “discovery” sessions and sprint retrospectives, the teams tailored their project and program practices. Subsequent sprints reflected a shallow learning curve with rapid improvement in quality and velocity. Key areas of process focus were: An Agile approach to generate the initial NPD objectives, components, and templates for transition team use, and define and design NPD process changes. The key elements of that approach are: formation of sub-teams of program managers to support document and process change definition and design, sub-teams focused on specific documents and processes based on expertise, and iterative requirements development.

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