“Within an hour of the start of training, I knew we’d made the right decision.”
– John Winter, Engineering Manager
As organizations continue to reap the benefits from their investments in Agile software development and scaled transformations, they turn their attention towards hardware development. Will applying the same processes, methodologies, and practices that seem to work so well for software development projects yield the same results in hardware development? As this Client Spotlight highlights, with the right guidance and experience, the particular challenges of developing physical products and systems that include both software and hardware can be addressed. Done correctly, teams adopting Agile processes for hardware development can expect to achieve increased team cohesion, improved product quality and reduced time to market.
Bird Technologies creates telecommunications equipment. Like many mature companies, Bird was struggling to revitalize a development process that over time had become slow and cumbersome. The engagement’s goal was to make the company more effective, adaptable, and less prone to waste, while improving their ability to be faster to market.
Prior to cPrime’s engagement, the organization was trained in the principles of Lean Engineering, which improved the company’s ability to manufacture their products. Their next step was to adopt Agile techniques for hardware-product development. The goal was to replicate the same tremendous efficiencies Agile processes introduced to the organization’s software development capabilities.
The project involved getting two teams building infrastructure products (e.g. amplifiers, relays and sensors) to function as Scrum teams. The teams consisted of a mix of Mechanical Engineers, Electrical Engineers, and Firmware or Software Engineers.
The organization called on cPrime to help implement the plan and set the path for success. cPrime’s proven track record in the agile hardware space and their proven expertise in the domain convinced the company that cPrime had the skills needed. Two cPrime white papers, “Agile Processes for Hardware Development” and “Recipes for Agile Governance in the Enterprise”, provided the real-world focus and details which further convinced Bird Technologies that cPrime ‘lives’ in their world, understand how it works, and knows how to make it better.
The two days of the Certified Agile Hardware Practitioner class were followed by several days of consulting time, to identify people to fill the various Scrum roles, set up the basic structure and schedule, and prepare the two Scrum Teams for their first Sprint. cPrime also provided on-site coaching for both teams through their first three Sprints.
Better Planning and Execution: Various teams were better able to both plan and execute their work with Scrum.
Increased Transparency & Decreased Bottlenecks: The teams found great benefit in the process flow and clarity provided by Scrum, which revealed a serious bottleneck that had been underestimated in the past. Much of one team’s work always had to funnel through one person, who could not possibly keep up with the demand for his skills. As a result of this discovery, the organization began taking steps to offload him, and train others to take on some of the work that he had been doing, thereby eliminating this bottleneck and improving overall flow and productivity.
Improved Teamwork: The new work processes enabled team members to function as a more coherent team, rather than a loose collection of individuals. Team members were looking at their work in different ways that ultimately made them more motivated, focused and efficient.
Better Definition of Work to Be Done: One of the key insights was that different team members had quite a different understanding of the work that they needed to do, the expectations, timelines and deliverables. New techniques implemented, such as Planning Poker and Backlog Refinement, proved important for revealing hidden assumptions that needed to be clarified.