Sohan's Blog

Living the Developer's Life

The CGI Story on Agile Scaling Success on a Large Project

This intro is from the presenters:-
PAS was a joint venture development initiative by 4 major oil and gas
companies and CGI. Devon, Encana, Husky and Talisman joined with CGI to
develop a new Production and Revenue Application. Each company put 3 senior
business resources on the project. The development component of the PAS
initiative cost $35M over 5 years with up to 90 people on the team. This
presentation is on how we used Agile to achieve this mammoth undertaking.

The product is currently running in production at 5 major oil and gas
companies with great reviews. It is also in production for several mid and
smaller sized companies. CGI is currently marketing the product.
This was my first ever meet with the Calgary agile methods user group, CAMUG and it was a great experience. Off late, I have been looking for my graduate research topic on agile methods, especially around scaling agile beyond a single team and this was just a perfect session for me.

I noted down a few of their discussed topics that I would like to share with my readers:
  1. The project continued in dev mode for 5 years, a $35M project.
  2. It started with only 3 members and extended to a team of 90 following Scrum+XP.
  3. The project had 5 sponsoring companies or clients.
  4. They had 6 teams working in the same sprint cycles.
  5. In each team, there were significant members from the business working full time with the team onsite and in the same open-space arrangement.
  6. They had some 3000+ unit tests and also 300+ acceptance test.
  7. They automated all repetitive tests.
  8. The had external experts visiting them from time to time. Eric Evans once visited them and helped them getting better grasp on Domain Driven Design.
  9. There had been a $800K and one month deviation from the projected cost and timeline.
They also discussed some issues related to working in a multi-team, multi-client project. I remember the following ones:-
  1. They had to balance between features/bug fixes.
  2. The deployment was taken care of by the respective sponsors, not the teams.
  3. They had issues with sprint backlog management.
They highlighted some aspects with great emphasis:-
  1. Open communication is the key to success.
  2. Onsite and full time real user availability is very important for such a big project.
  3. Automated tests, partial pair programming and continuous integration is a big plus.
  4. Staying co-located was really helpful.
What about scaling beyond?
  1. I asked them, if they felt it would still be a similar success if there had been 12 teams or even more with 200 people or so. They said, it would be challenging. But in response, they also said, following waterfall would make life much harder with such a big team, if at all it could be a success at the first place! Yes, I also believe this.
  2. One of the audiences asked if they outsourced a part of the project and the response was ‘No’. CGI has a big team in India with a very high CMM ranking, but the project manager and asst. project manager said, it would be much difficult for differing time zones. Also, it would be difficult to transfer the knowledge as well as replicate the value of onsite client presence. The development manager also added that, the cultural difference between an agile and CMM setup would also been an issue if they had to go for the off-shore team.
The session was much more eventful than what I could compile. So, if you are anywhere near Calgary and interested about meeting agile practitioners from the industry, lets meet at the next meet!