The notion of radiating software project status using “big visible charts” has long been popular within the Agilista community. While the mantra seems very practical and wise, the execution is almost always a bit of a joke. The metrics and charts selected for usage in this regard have either been cherry picked to keep upper management at bay long enough that teams can get momentum and rhythm, or have been bastardized by treating “big huge Gantt charts” as somehow being equivalent. The analytics chosen are almost always vanity metrics, either because answering meaningful questions regarding investment health are too difficult to achieve, or no one wants the questions answered in the first place. One of the big benefits of modern software delivery approaches, notably accelerated by the Agile and DevOps movements, is that hiding from the truth is much more difficult. Yet still, obfuscation festers.
You can tell if the above situation is present in your enterprise if your analytics are fundamentally lacking any intelligence. By this I mean do your metrics forecast what will happen in the future based on what has happened in the past? Does your instrumentation leverage moving averages, confidence intervals and ranges due to levels of uncertainty? Are they understandable so that those entrusted to either steer the ship or modify the work system can make sense of the likely impacts from their interventions? Do your teams have to run an advance analytics chart by snuggling up to their tracking tool, only to find that the chart is just a little bit shy of what they need? Or how about finding that their metrics are silo’d due to the fact that multiple teams are using different tools on the same program. Or how about whether they have a way to access a meaningful set of indicators to track cross value-stream health where PPM tracking tools and divorced from ITSM and DevOps infrastructure. If you can honestly answer “yes” then congratulations – you are in the extreme minority. And no, the typical but popular image below can achieve none of these goals because the history of movement of the physical objects is not tracked. Nor is it always available to everyone at the breadth of the geographically distributed enterprise. Nor is it understandable to all but a few.
This leads me to my next question…does your Information Radiator radiate? Can your teams do all of the above and just look up to a monitor on the development shop floor and see all these indicators in real time? Can they look at Portfolio, Program, Project, DevOps, Release Train and Collaboration streams of metrics as if they were on an investment trading desk making in-the-moment portfolio optimization decisions? Full hybrid aggregation of all these levels of scale, and integration across each segment of the value stream? Well, our clients can.
The Enterprise Portfolio Advisor does all this across a hybrid of tools. But our platform is different than our competitors, names like Tasktop Data or Microsoft Power BI or IBM Rational Insight (Cognos). That’s because they all continue to make the same mistake of trying to build the big heavy, never in-sync bear of a data warehouse. But even more significant is that none of these are event-driven.
When one of the thousands of events occurring on the project at any given moment occurs, these approaches must wait until the big nightly batch has run to make any sense of it. Sure teams could easily run an operational chart or report accessing live data from within one of the toolset silo’s. But how would they know that doing this is necessary at any particular moment to steer the ship? How would this live-ness and all the complex queries being run scale if say thousands of people had to run these at once for large programs with say tens of thousands of User Stories? I would love to see their Azure DevOps usage charges :o) Most importantly, how long can you afford to wait to know you are in trouble? Our approach is to stream analytics in near real time by having our StreamServer access a hybrid of planning tracking and development infrastructure tools and publishing these analytics out to metrics appliances across the enterprise. In what is supposed to be the philosophy of full openness and transparency, what the development teams are seeing as to their in-flight telemetry is exactly what the C-Suite is seeing, at whatever level of detail is desired. No more manufacturing pretty yet meaningless PowerPoint status reports, notoriously censored and gamed. Huge win for executives who have always just wanted a simple dashboard of never-stale performance indicators. Huge win for PMO’s who can get on with the more difficult task of actually steering the ship through their available levers; huge win for teams, no longer being nagged for status reports and who no longer have to lose their train of thought in solving the tough problems in software development. In short the enterprise can exercise their fiduciary, act as true servant leaders and focus on innovation.
It would seem the practice of Information Radiator is much more than a piece of paper on the wall or “just a tool” in the pejorative.