Learn Agile Before You Bust – Former Lehman Brothers COO Learns Scrum

James Martin was European IT COO at Lehman Brothers when the investment banking giant collapsed in 2008. Now in August 2011, James has created a company called Firmrater to provide online performance benchmarking for UK firms. As they began development, he wrote a very compelling article on how they build the company and system, based on Scrum software development.

Some highlights:

  1. Produce fully detailed functional specifications before starting development – Interesting
  2. Create minimal administrative documentation: focus on the product
  3. Use online collaboration tools with a minimum of meetings and phone calls
  4. Carry out rigorous testing based on the specifications
  5. Use written change requests which include time and cost impact
  6. Provide a “low distraction, high freedom” working culture for the whole team

Some more quotes from James’ paper:

“If your own money is tied up in a development project you clearly need to do everything you can to make sure the time and cost stays under control and you get the product you need to launch your business.”

Nobody has a crystal ball so producing a traditional project schedule in advance is fraught with risk. Why not abandon the detailed schedule altogether? You can’t slip interim milestones if you don’t have any and you can’t add padding into them either.

To give ourselves the best chance of producing the application in the shortest possible time and at the lowest cost, experience dictated that we produce detailed specifications describing all functions along with a mock-up of each web page.

Overall we spent about 5 months (48% of total project duration) producing the specifications, which was time very well spent. To accelerate the start of development, placeholders were left for text content as this could be dropped into the application later. This enabled us to work on the website content in parallel with development of the application and cut the launch timescale by several weeks.

[HT: ComputerWeekly]

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3 Responses to “Learn Agile Before You Bust – Former Lehman Brothers COO Learns Scrum”

  1. Tommy Ball
    September 6, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    True dat Peter! So many companies went out of business due to incomplete code after 911. Granted, Agile was brand new at the time, buthow many would still be thriving today had they applied Agile? You here that world…you better start now before it’s too late. Good stuff Agile Scout Master!!!

    • peter
      September 6, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      We can learn a lot from those that fail. Some of the best stories I’ve ever heard were failure stories turned into pure gold. I wish I heard more agile-transformation horror stories… i know they are out there… more than successes for sure!

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