Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Middle Office Agile - Test Driven Sprints

In big middle-office risk organizations there are far reaching business, operational, technical and political implications for "going live" in production. That makes 30-day Scrum sprints of production code nearly impossible.

These middle office organizations usually consist of a heterogeneous mix of systems and technologies, each of which performs some function (eg: data sourcing, risk calculation, risk reporting, etc...) As mentioned in a previous posting, data integration is a big challenge in middle-office technology projects. In fact, all forms of technical and operational integration dwarf any other challenges in middle-office projects. The bulk of my middle-office work to date has been in setting up and executing "integration" projects like these.

A number of Agile principles can be instrumental in making middle-office projects successful.

From a Project Management standpoint, Scrum Sprints make so much sense because they
delivery quickly and consistently and minimize project risk tremendously. The most success
I've had in the middle-office was with early and frequent integration milestones. Almost always these milestones are completed in an integration testing environment where different teams come together for the first time.

The frequent milestones are helpful because they force teams to "Integrate Often". The scope of these milestones can be considered "Unit Tests" of each integration point.

I think we can be more specific about how Agile works in the middle office by using the term "Test Driven Sprint" to describe the goal of a middle-office Scrum Sprint. Please note that I'm purposely playing on the well-known "Test Driven Development" movement here :)