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UK HMG (Her Majesty's Government) Departments Shift from One Mega Technology Supplier to Many Suppliers

The UK government has long published plans to help small and medium-sized enterprises to gain a greater share of central government business.

Their goal is for 25% of central government spending to go to SMEs rather than large organisations.

In recent years we can see that the large scale contracts with the likes of HP, Accenture and Cap-Gemini have been replaced with open frameworks allowing smaller companies to try to get a share of the pie.

From frameworks like the G-cloud, this will allow the more specialised but smaller suppliers their opportunity to deliver better value for money to the UK public.

It should also drive up competition, as in the past, long term contracts with a number of Government departments ensured a great deal of systems knowledge transfer into one supplier. By moving supplier you lost key business knowledge making it very difficult to change and so made it difficult to access SMEs not directly employed by the big boys.

There is also a shift to rebuild their internal digital expertise with government owned companies like Department for Work & Pensions ‘s (DWP) Liberata and HMRC’s Revenue & Customs Digital Technology Services Ltd (RCDTS) taking IT work back in-house. However, there will still be the need for niche skills.

With Brexit looming, it will be interesting to see what the future tendering processes UK Government has to follow given the current compulsory OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) tenders.

Certainly interesting days lie ahead.

 

READ HOW DCG UK is a designated Digital Outcomes and Specialists Provider.

Written by Steve Kitching at 13:06

5000-1 Foxes in the Henhouse

Steve KitchingIn the past week, we have seen one of the most remarkable sporting achievements by an unlikely underdog here in the UK. Leicester City FC, of the English Premier League, won the league with two games to spare, beating illustrious teams such as Manchester United and Chelsea to the top.

This was a team with no stars; in fact, it barely escaped relegation a year before, which bookmakers made 5000-1 outsiders to win the title.

How did they do it? Some say it was the discovery and subsequent reburial of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral after his remains were found in a local carpark, bringing the team this run of good fortune.

The truth is that the victory was due to an incredible display of teamwork and commitment. There were no egos, just a drive to perform and support each other to consistently deliver results time after time.

Other teams failed, including my local side, Newcastle, where egos and attitudes ruled and so performances and results degraded.

Why am I talking about this on a software blog? We can all relate this situation to our experience of teamwork in the IT world. I’ve worked on teams where egos dominated. Whoever shouted the loudest would win, and inevitably the team would struggle to meet its goals. Compare this to teams who worked together harmoniously and delivered the goods time after time. The way a team works together directly affects the results.

This lesson can apply to any team in the IT space, but the mantra of teamwork should shine most predominantly in the Agile space, where the team(s) should pull together for a common goal.

How do you improve team culture and habits? We suggest the AgilityHealth Radar, which is a strategic retrospective that focuses on the top areas that affect team performance and health. With the results, there is a clear path forward to improved team culture and thus improved results.

So, are you a Leicester or something else entirely?


Steve Kitching
Estimation Specialist

Written by Steve Kitching at 05:00

Are We Ready for Agile – And Are We Following the Money?

Steve KitchingAt a recent conference, one of the overriding themes was that although organisations believe that implementing Agile is a good idea, they are concerned about how they would do it and if they are really ready.

In truth, to implement Agile successfully, the whole organisation has to adjust with the approach and be prepared for the changes it requires.

For example, senior management needs to understand that the objective of Agile isn’t to deliver every software change, but to deliver the most important changes – those with the greatest business value. This requires collaboration between IT and the business. Ultimately, IT must work with the business to follow the money!

You often hear that only the development team is going Agile, but this is inaccurate. There is also a shift in the role of the business owner. Their empowerment to control the backlog is a huge benefit to the organisation. Mishandled, this is the one factor that makes an Agile implementation a failure. Without the business owner, the development team doesn’t have the authority to determine the relative importance of the deliverables or effectively groom the backlog.

Organisations also have to manage their own expectations; during the initial trial, the effort may be very similar to Waterfall as teams adjust to the new processes. Agile is a Lean process; it helps minimise the effect of change, but it isn’t a panacea – you still need the final business vision to drive the development. If it isn’t worth doing for the expected return, then why do it!

Finally, remember that there is still a need for a business process to support Agile. DSDM is a very good framework, which enables the business to reap the benefits of Agile. You may also need to consider how to extend Agile to all of your teams; for that, we suggest the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to control multiple teams working across an implementation.

If the organisation is ready, Agile can be a huge success; if not, unfortunately the finger of blame will be pointed at the process, not the fact the organisation wasn’t prepared to reap the benefits.

As always, we’re here to help. We offer an Agile Readiness Review and a SAFe Readiness Review to help you determine if you’re ready to go Agile.

If you’re looking for help with SAFe, we suggest checking out our Leading SAFe training class, which we’re offering in Edinburgh this October.


Steve Kitching
Software Sizing and Estimation Specialist

Written by Steve Kitching at 05:00
Categories :

Why are IT Project Estimates Like Electoral Polling?

Steve KitchingHere in the UK we’ve just had a general election, and as usual, the results differed from the conducted polls. For weeks, estimates of the number of seats and percentage of the votes put the results neck-and-neck for the two main parties. Now, the pundits and press are running around like headless chickens, and the expectations for the next few weeks have flown out of the window. Planned TV shows and editorials based on who would join with whom have now become confetti, as the Conservatives won an election that looked impossible for anyone to win.

The early exit poll predicted a win for the Conservative party. It was based on a blind sample at the polling stations and it seemed a little optimistic, but even that prediction (316 out of 650 seats) was exceeded in the final result of 331 seats. To be fair, the exit poll had the best and most up-to-date information and the margin of error was only 5%.

So, why is an IT project like an election? Like the polls, any estimate will be wrong; by definition, it’s an estimate, not reality. It’s impossible to consider everything that might happen on a project that could impact the real effort and duration, and the earlier you estimate, the less accurate the estimate will be because a lot of detail will be missing.

Like the polls, the estimate sets an expectation and people plan around it; the information is used to set the resources and schedules needed to deliver the project and to set commitments, both internally and with the client. The media made assumptions based on the early polls, and in IT project budgets, we also tend to put too much store in the early estimates, ignoring the margin of error. This is something we have to acknowledge and deal with as the project progresses and better information emerges.

The key is to use the best information available at the time to deliver the estimate and re-estimate as we know more. Reconcile multiple estimates and engage techniques such as parametric modelling and experienced-based estimating with historical data to deliver robust estimates and to plan with sufficient contingency and flexibility to deliver the project within the levels of expectation.

We know that any estimate will be wrong, but the error margin can be improved by repeating the exercise as new information is gathered. With perfect information you can get a perfect answer – in an election the perfect answer is when all the votes are counted, in an IT project, it’s at the point of delivery.


Steve Kitching
Software Sizing and Estimation Specialist

Written by Steve Kitching at 05:00

ISMA 9

IFPUG

I attended IFPUG’s ISMA 9 conference in Madrid on the 27th of March. There were over 150 delegates with, as you might expect, a strong percentage of Spanish attendees.

The conference offered the opportunity to take both the CFPS (FP) and CSP (SNAP) examinations, and both Tom Cagley and I took the challenging CSP exam. DCG is an authorized provider of Software Non-functional Assessment Process (SNAP) consulting and training, and it was interesting to see that other companies are noticing the benefits of the framework as well.

The key message of the conference was “Measuring for Business,” and a number of thought provoking speakers really drilled home the importance of why clients need to find some measure of size to inform and validate provider estimates, and that benchmarking provides valuable insight into getting value for money for your organisation.

Another interactive demonstration focused on why estimates improve with the more information that you have – amazing what you can do with a pair of scissors and paper rings!

Overall, the conference really emphasized the use of function points as the recognised industry measure, allowing you to look not only at your own organisational data, but also at the wider community to understand where you are in terms of productivity, cost and quality. DCG follows this approach with our “Measure. Optimise. Deliver.” approach to delivery.

The only lowpoint of the trip was a number of delegates, including Tom Cagley and myself, caught Spanish Flu! Otherwise, it was a successful trip to Madrid and a great conference from IFPUG.

 

Steve Kitching
Measurement and Estimating Specialist

Written by Steve Kitching at 05:00
Categories :

"It's frustrating that there are so many failed software projects when I know from personal experience that it's possible to do so much better - and we can help." 
- Mike Harris, DCG President

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