Success with Agile Project Management in General Dynamics
In the case study, general dynamics was able to deliver Technology Demonstrator Project (TDP) on Combat Identification Server (CIdS) both on time and within budget. The success of this project can largely be attributed to the use of Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM). The DSDM is a type of an agile project framework that includes and covers diverse activities in the entire project lifecycle (Stapleton, 2016). This approach gives great emphasis on governance and project foundation. This differentiates the approach from other agile project approaches.
Several factors could have informed the choice of the Dynamic Systems Development Method as the most suitable agile methodology approach to be used in this project. First, General Dynamics could have settled on DSDM because the process does not depend on a specific technique (Stapleton, 2016). This gives the process flexibility in choosing the process that can be used in the execution of the project. In this Technology Demonstrator Project, the flexibility of technique was imperative because it would help the project manager to change techniques when the need arises and adopt techniques that are faster and cheaper while confining the project management within the DSDM framework. Secondly, General dynamics could have settled on this agile approach because the approach places a strong emphasis on testing. It requires that each project team includes a tester. This helps in the timely closing of loopholes within the project (Roberts, 2009). The nature of the Combat Identification Server (CIdS) being developed in this project case and its application in the ministry of defense required a strong reliable and protected system. Its application in war and difference gives no room for errors and hence requires a system that has greatly been tested and certified. Therefore, DSDM was the most suitable agile framework approach for this project.
This project tried to solve three major business problems. The first problem was timely delivery of the project. The ability to deliver projects on time was a challenge, particularly when using other non-agile approaches (Stapleton, 2016). This approach was a demonstration that DSDM agile approach could be effective in delivering projects within the expected timelines. The second business problem that this approach aimed at solving was the quality issue. In cases where the project objectives are like moving targets, the quality of the project is often a challenge in achieving. The quality of a project is measured against its ability to achieve its objectives. In this project, the objective was to ensure that the pictures of friendly troops are sent to the aircraft’s cock pic. The objective could only be met by working with the end users in determining how the application can differentiate the friendly troops from non-friendly ones. Therefore, this project aimed to address the important aspect of the quality of this application regarding the business problem. The last business problem that this project aimed at addressing was the cost (Collins, 2017). Every business establishment seeks to reduce the cost of operations and hence increase profitability. This project aimed at cutting down the cost of project development and consequently developing a project that is both cost-effective as well as confined within the client’s budget. The project aimed at demonstrating the possibility to deliver military IT solutions within budget.
The project team applied the agile project management techniques to ensure they delivered the project on time, on budget with good quality. First, the DSDM agile approach adopted provided for the trading out of some project requirements in order to achieve both budget and time requirements. The resultant application was not perfect but was suitable for the purpose for which it was intended. The inclusion of some requirement would have delayed the delivery of the project and equally increased its cost. Therefore, the elimination of requirements that were not absolutely necessary was important in meeting the time as well as the cost objectives of the agile approach (Stapleton, 2016). Secondly, the project was divided into incremental steps. Each of these incremental steps was placed in time boxes and their capability checked before proceeding. This ensured a consistent focus on quality throughout the project implementation phase. Moreover, each of the incremental boxes was focused on the achievement of the “MUST” objectives of quality, time and cost. In the event any of the three was not achievable, the incremental box would be redesigned to accommodate them. The focus would be on changing the requirements of the project and aligning them to the objectives of cost, quality, and time.
In my opinion, I do not agree with the approach taken by this project. This is because the project management approach seeks to trivialize the importance of requirements ion features and specification. While the elimination of some features and application requirements helped the project team in the realization of the project objectives, it reduces the importance of those features in the overall development of the Combat Identification Server (CIdS). Consequently, the resultant product may not be able to conclusively execute all the objectives it had previously envisioned. Therefore, a shift of focus from the features of the project is likely to limit the capability of the product as previously envisioned (Roberts, 2009). The project team ought to have found a new and creative way of focusing on cost, quality and time without compromising the initial features intended for this project.
The project teams and coaches demonstrated a mastery of the agile methodology to solve business problems. First, the ability to focus on the three main aspects of cost, quality and time is the major demonstration that the project team has a mastery of the requirements of the agile methodology. Secondly, the project teams, as well as their coaches, have broken down the entire project into small incremental time boxes. The ability to manage the three aspects of the project at every implementation stage is a great demonstration of an understanding of the agile methodology (Stapleton, 2016). The ability of the teams to manage schedules within the time boxes and ensure no time box goes beyond the scheduled time is another clear demonstration of a mastery of the agile methodology. Lastly, the team and the coaches were able to achieve the agile methodology objectives. This equally demonstrates their mastery of the agile methodology.
The most effective approach in the Combat Identification Server (CIdS) project management would not have capitalized on the elimination of features. While the approach employed in this case study was effective in meeting the cost, time and quality perspectives, it greatly limited the applicability of the product through the elimination of features in order to fit in the time and cost perspectives. The most appropriate approach would have been a consideration of ways to reduce cost as well as time without compromising the features of the product in question. For instance, the project would have focused on adjusting methodology and finding appropriate methods that would implement the project at the least cost and within the scheduled time while maintaining the high quality of the project (Roberts, 2009).
The shortcomings of the agile approach notwithstanding, the agile approach produced more business benefits than a traditional project management approach. First, the project was able to cut down the cost implications of such projects tremendously. As already demonstrated, the contemporary competitive business environment has necessitated cutting down cost. This helps the business to offer competitive prices and equally maintain a sufficient profit margin. The traditional approaches did not pay much attention to cost and therefore resulted in projects that were very expensive (Collins, 2017). Therefore, this approach has been effective in solving the cost business problem. Secondly, this approach has been effective in solving the business problem of time. While the traditional approach took unnecessarily long periods to complete this project was completed in time and was equally a demonstration that projects can indeed be completed on time (Roberts, 2009). Lastly, this project management approach was effective in achieving the business problem of quality. The traditional approaches could not incorporate changes in the needs of the end user in the course of the project. On the contrary, the ambiguity of the agile approach makes it easy to incorporate such changes and consequently enhance the quality of the product.
The coaches in this project management had several significant roles. First, they played the role of recruiting and finding the most suitable personnel for work within teams in this project. They had to identify people who are tolerant to ambiguity and can effectively work within teams. Secondly, the project coaches were involved in the negotiation. They negotiated with the client on the aspects and features that could potentially be eliminated in the project in pursuit of the “must” objectives. They further negotiated the payment plan for this project. Most importantly, the coaches trained the teams and enabled them to see the general outlook of the DSDM framework (Roberts, 2009). This ensured that all the team members were able to give input in the planning and implementation of the project from an informed point of view.
Collins, G. (2017). Agile Project Management. Project Management, Planning and Control, 7(12), 529-554.
Roberts, B. (2009). Dynamic Systems Development Method, the Standard for Rapid Application Development. Software Quality, 2(2), 16-33.
Stapleton, J. (2016). DSDM: Dynamic Systems Development Method. Proceedings Technology of Object-Oriented Languages and Systems. 4(7), 227-238.