1st Edition

A Tale of Two Systems Lean and Agile Software Development for Business Leaders

By Michael K. Levine Copyright 2009
    340 Pages 39 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    This business parable reviews two different systems development projects. One project was an abject, expensive failure, while the other succeeded in creating a major new revenue stream, bringing in new customers. By reviewing the tales of these two systems, readers will develop a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the leadership and action steps required to reinvent a company’s procedures to get in step with the times.

    CEO Evan Nogelmeyer discovers to his dismay that in today’s business world, technology is not just for technologists. But does he discover this soon enough and once he does, does he have the tools and the business savvy he needs to stave off disaster? Evan and his team are all well-intentioned, successful business leaders with advanced degrees and backgrounds in marketing and business. But, without technical backgrounds, do they have what it takes to manage the technology overhaul so critical to the very survival of their company and the future of their own careers?

    A Tale of Two Systems: Lean and Agile Software Development for Business Leaders reviews two fictional systems development projects: Cremins United and Troubled Real Estate Information Management, both launched at the imaginary Cremins Corporation. Cremins is a venerable printing company that must transform itself to survive in the Internet age. One project proves to be an abject and expensive failure, while the other succeeds in creating a major new revenue stream and solving important customer needs. Contrasting the methods employed in a traditional, process-centric 'waterfall' approach, with a lean and agile-inspired approach, this book provides business leaders with a tangible understanding of why lean thinking is so well-suited to contemporary environments requiring flexibility, speed, and the input of specialized knowledge.

    At the conclusion of the two tales, author Michael Levine articulates a series of conclusions and principles based on Lean Product Development, Agile, and his 25 years of experience in business systems development.

    While the tales told and the companies and employees that inhabit them are pure fiction, the lessons to be learned are very real and very applicable in today’s highly competitive market, where victory goes time and time again to the lean and the agile.

    Prelude: January 2008

    The First 6 Months: September 2005-February 2006
    Kicking off Project #1—TRIM: The "Troubled Real Estate Information Management" Project 
    Kicking off Project #2: The Cremins United Project 
    Two Different Approaches to the Two Different Projects 
    Understanding Lean & Agile Development 
    The CU Project Team Will Follow "The Process" 
    The CU Project Imposes Technology Architecture from the Top 
    Setting Expectations for the CU Project: How Iron Is the Triangle? 
    Don’t Shoot the Messenger: The CU Project Team Meets with Management 
    Cutting CU Project Development Time—by a Year
    Planning the TRIM Project
    Planning and Managing TRIM’s One-Month Sprints
    Status Update for Both Projects 
    The CU Project’s Buy vs. Build Decision
    Drawing Boundaries and Tailoring Methods
    The TRIM Project’s 1st Sprint Demo: A Bit behind Schedule, but Catching up
    The CU Project Requirements Handoff: An Uneasy Transition

    The 2nd 6 Months: March 2006-August 2006
    The CU Project Leaders Visit the TRIM Team 
    Checking in on the CU Project’s Development: Green for Go, or Screaming Red? 
    A Status Check: TRIM’s OK, but CU May Be in Trouble

    Year 2: September 2006-February 2007
    A Dismal Reality Check for the CU Team 
    The TRIM System Goes Live; Managing Problems & Growth
    The CU Project Is Finally Officially Code Complete
    The CU Project Retrospective: Slipcharts and Some Towering Expertise (Too Late)

    The Beginning of the End: The Last 6 Months of 2 Years of Work
    18 Months In: Status Updates for Both Projects
    The Decision to Go Live with the CU System

    Final Lessons for Leaders
    Epilogue: What We Learned from the TRIM and CU Projects


    Michael K. Levine

    A Tale of Two Systems takes us on an intriguing and very realistic journey through the development of two systems – one a spectacular success, and the other an equally spectacular failure. It exposes in detail why one system succeeds and the other fails. In the epilogue, Levine summarizes the lessons leaders should take away from this wonderful tale. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book; following the story brings a deep appreciation of its wisdom.
    --Mary Poppendieck, author of Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash