Recently, we completed a full cycle implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX while using many aspects of the agile methodology.
Overall, the project had over 20 team members located at more than 3 locations spread across different time zones, and here are some of our best practices:
- Daily meetings help - especially if the expectation is set properly on the purpose and structure. The remote team members can be part of it as long as they are minority.
- The end result has to be the focus - the end game has to be known and talked about during the planning and review meetings (at least).
- TFS is a great tool, and having trained folks who know how to get the most out of it helps with transparency and many other aspects of the project.
- Smaller project teams can have independent sprints. Such approach does carry higher risk and it takes extra knowledge and experience to assure the end game alligment.
- Celebrating smaller wins is a must and alligning them with the sprint end can be a natural fit.
An agile project management approach is not for each project, but certain aspects can and should be considered, especially when an experienced team of consultants is working with knowlegable, IT savvy end users.
Iterative, less risky, timely, higher quality Dynamics software development, why not?
Many times in postmortem software development projects, reviews uncover the same issue of requirements not being met at an adequate level. This has caused many software development companies to move towards a more agile approach in the software development life cycle for the Microsoft Dynamics family of products.
Internally, Merit Solutions' engineers are taking the lead in the adoption of this new approach. Increased communication has proven to be one of the keys for success, and even the shortest daily meetings (online, in person, or over the phone sometimes under five min long) are very productive and help prevent us from having “fires” on the projects. Our clients have already reacted positively to our continuous integration, shortened release schedule, transparency of the projects’ progress, test driven development and ability to address challenges while they are small. At the end, the outcome is a higher quality product, with more iterations that save time and money for our clients.
I have to mention that Construx resources have been very helpful in getting our team to become more flexible and meet every unique client requests. Even without being extreme, we have benefited greatly from the recommendations and guidance they have been providing in their training sessions and educational materials (one of their white papers, “Optimize Agile for Your Organization” is a great starting point for novices in this area).
With our team working as "backbone" support for all of our on-site consultants and many other partners, we still haven't seen complete utilization of the SureStep methodology with Dynamics GP in a way that we expected it to. On the other side, our Dynamics AX team and partners use it frequently for overall project management; even there, the development piece seems to be less defined and open to discrepancies.
In order to fulfill our clients' expectations for quality and timelines, we have been utilizing different methodologies so far (SureStep being one of them), and they depend mainly on the size of the project and the experience of the team members involved.
Has anybody used SureStep for any of their Dynamics GP, Dynamics AX or Dynamics CRM projects? We are especially interested in using it for managing larger engagements or working with another partner.
For those of you unfamiliar with SureStep, he is a good article on SureStep methodology. SureStep is available through PartnerSource.