Enhancing Engineering Management's Role in Agile Development Practices

Rebecca Hammons, Ontario Systems LLC

How did your improvement help the organization achieve its goals?

By moving to a scrum development model over the past several years, responsibility for project team outcomes shifted from functional engineering management to product management (product owners). There is a significant difference in technical skills between these two groups at Ontario Systems, so project teams struggled with scope volatility within individual sprints and within the project lifecycle. Our improvement was to define processes to engage the technical oversight and input from functional engineering managers and other engineering subject matter experts to assess the project kick-off artifacts and scope change requests during a project's lifecycle.

How did adoption or use of the CMMI contribute to the improvement?

CMMI has provided the company with a foundation of baseline best practices for the past five or six years, and the organization has rallied around the need for standardization and continuous improvement. While developing in a waterfall framework for decades, the company sought to apply agile development practices, supported by CMMI, to achieve greater speed to market. The foundational CMMI practices and the associated measures for the organization were adaptable to a new development approach. The CMMI model supports the quality checkpoints that were needed to improve our agile practices.

Why should this implementation be considered successful?

Functional engineering managers, in the agile model, shifted to less engagement in project outcomes and more focused on 'people management'. Their substantial product and technical knowledge was being underutilized in the agile model, and too much responsibility was laid upon the shoulders of the product owners, who were less technical. The new standard operating procedures for management and technical reviews provide facilitated opportunities to engage a wider, experienced audience (including subject matter expertise) to identify gaps or mistakes in requirements planning and scope change requests. This ultimately benefits the project teams and their fitness for success.

Rebecca Hammons

Dr. Rebecca Hammons has extensive technology industry experience in establishing and leading software quality assurance, product development lifecycle services, and project management teams. She is an associate professor at Ball State University in the Center for Information and Communication Sciences. Dr. Hammons has worked for Ontario Systems, Apple, Raytheon, Tivoli Systems and Wang, in addition to several niche software firms. She is a Certified Quality Manager and Certified Software Quality Engineer with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and a Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Product Owner with Scrum Alliance.


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