Jharna Software is a software company with a focus on providing IT services on for the Finance industry. It offers E-commerce, network solutions, application development, ERP, CRM, E-CRM and other offshore services. Applications development, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship. The core strength of the company is about providing high-quality offerings at low price points. However, continues intense pressure from competitors has caused Jharna’s management to rethink about their current business model. Their current plan driven method has been successful. However the main problem of this process was in their implementation stage within the systems integration at the customer site. The difficulty level of planning the integration process is high and time consuming with much resources is being used. The reason behind varies, most of which focused on incomplete and changing system specs throughout development cycle that complicated the integration phase. Further, communicating across the time zone between India and the US where the majority of their clients reside is proving to be inefficient. As a result, there was increasing interest in addressing this problem by implementing a new development process.
Agile Development Method Vs Plan -Driven Method
Currently the company has two decision options. First one is to adapt to agile development processes and the other one is to maintain current processes status quo (plan driven method) and explore alternatives to address the system integration issues. Following is a brief description of both Method
Agile development method (ADM) is comprised of a team effort that involves developers, testers, and management direction. The goal is to more efficiently develop software products that tend to be costly and time consuming without proper guidance. The method promotes teamwork and collaboration. The model emphasizes a flexible environment where little planning is done up front allowing for project change. Quality assurance tests ensure certain milestones along the path are achieved before moving ahead to the next phase of the finished project.
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Plan-Driven Method (PDM), on the other hand, focus on planning ahead. Documenting steps and procedures so that they are all traceable and attention to detailed. This type of documentation and planning ensure high standards and minimized disruptions even if a key member of staff left the company. The leader analyzes the organizational requirements of a business as it relates to technical systems, and tries to come up with solution using information systems and software products to meet new business requirements. After the careful gathering of requirements has been met they would then pass these on to software developers who would come up with a solution to meet these requirements.
Evaluation of ADM and PDM (waterfall)
The assessments of both methods are break down into the following 5 areas which we think is crucial
Ability to meet the customer needs: PDM processes devote a large amount of time at the front end of development stage to establishing customer needs and converting them into system level requirements. The client-site team meets with customers, learns their needs, develops specifications, verifies them with the customers, and then sends them offshore for development. This is a much formalized, documented process. On the other hand, ADM processes spend less time up front to formal system specifications, but rather rely on continuous communication with the customer throughout the development process. This process accounts for the fact that needs often change or cannot be fully developed early on and is flexible to this. This relies heavily on the developers (Techies) to understand clearly what the customer needs. However, there might lead to a gap of between what was expected and what was actually developed. It was a common process of developers leading operations as opposed to operations leading developers.
Ability to be adapted to changes: PDM processes are not sufficient because the lack of complete system requirements at the start of development and requirements may further change and the process is not adequate to adapt to late-breaking changes. On the other hand, ADM is able to tackle this situation by dividing integration into chunks throughout the process, allowing changes to be made without drastically impacting the design. However as changes continue to evolved, due to the time differences between the team and their clients, delay of communication might cause other issues as well.
Cooperation between multiple sites: PDM processes have been structured to work well with multiple locations as all documentation, communications are standardized so that information is shared effectively and everyone knows who is accountable for each aspect of development. AGM on the other hand relies on self individual and are much less structured, and rely on informal communication methods. This could pose some issues with keeping all people at all sites on the same ground.
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In line with Business objectives: PDM processes suit the current culture at Jharna. It strives to get solutions right the first time, has formalized systems of documentation to retain knowledge, provide clarity, reduce risk, and maintain certifications. The management team is comfortable with the processes. This process has shortcomings that are keeping Jharna from being as efficient as they would like and from providing seamless integration with the customer that meets their high quality standards. AGM on the other hand, would allow Jharna to maintain their competitive edge by reducing cycle times and cost. It keeps the customer involved throughout development, insuring that the products produced meet their needs and making them active partners, solidifying customer loyalty and providing more insight into true customer needs. However, it is a dramatic change from current company culture, and would require extensive training for management (or hiring of new managers with experience), training of employees, and internal and external evaluations of process risks (which are not well documented or accessible from others who employ the processes).
Employee’s effect: Current practices provide training and benefits and highly competitive wages for employees in attempts to retain employees and keep morale high. This, however, is not directly tied to the development process and could be maintained with either one. The current process requires long work hours and work weeks for most employees, while less re-training is required to learn the new processes and less conflict between staffs might occur. On the other hand, AGM, incorporate shorter work weeks for employees, allow more flexibility and do not require quite as much specialization of skills for employees. One of the major problems bringing in the new method would cause is Jharna would have to hire new staff and retrain all the existing staff. This could create conflict amongst the current staff as some will be trained before others. This would also cost a lot of money and if unsuccessful could tarnish the company financially.
Recommended Decision and Action Plan
Based on above analysis, Moving to the new process versus the same process flow method are more or less weight of Pros and Cons. Primary benefits of the current system are that it is well established and suited to the company culture and meets most customer needs. The risks are the customer integration issues can still not being able to be addressed. Costs and time consumption are still high and interaction with customer still remains limited on the design stage. Agile processes, on the other hand, the main advantages are the flip side of the coin, Customer satisfaction by rapid, continuous delivery of useful software, Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months);Late changes are welcomed; continuous attention to technical excellence and good design; simplicity. However, this would be a large divert from the company current culture and practices, and would need to implement very carefully in order to be successful. Further, there are chances of miscommunication between divisions as less formality is within the process.
In normal practice, if we don’t see a leap of advantage of a new process, it is not recommended to pursue. However, in the principle of continuous improvement, small tweak are suggested. Jharna don’t need to fully embrace the agile method while disposing its current method. A hybrid of both processes could be a solution out. The original documentation is still been used. The design stage will need to be shortening, and during the development stage customer involvement are welcome and changes are made available. Formal communication channel are being setup to ensure that communication issues are minimized. Different customer would have different expectation on the requirement of the integration. For those clients who specially emphasize on the standard, the more focus approach on the process-plan method will be used. For those clients who prefer quick to the market solution, the more focus approach on the agile method will be taken.
One of the main challenges is the time zone differences between US and India. Suggestion to change the working ways of the development team into shifts that eventually a 24 hours team is ready to make any changes according to the customer needs, rather having personnel stationed in US to work out the solution in real time. Further, staff can be trained more gradually and also given the option of additional training to their benefit. The cost would therefore be split over a longer period of time. New staff will still have to be taking on however this integrations period will allow Jharna the luxury of gaining the best of both markets
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