Agile and Visual Modeling: A Winning Combination

Added to Business

I hope you enjoy reading “Got Credit? Using Agile and Visual Models to Roll Out a Global Credit Transformation at Dell”, our latest experience report by Candase Hokanson and Cárlon Halmenschlager Szymanski.


Candase and Cárlon share their story about a successful, multi-year global effort to transform Dell’s credit system. Visual modeling was one of the keys to their success.

Visual models are tools. Like any tool, they need to be used wisely. Candase observes that: “The visual models we made were by no means comprehensive documentation of the system, but gave us a tool to help get people talking and aligned on what we needed to build and where. … Even with our visual models, it took people talking to other people to make these programs a success. Documentation only gets you so far.”

The Credit Team used system flow diagrams, ecosystem maps, feature trees, and decision tables, among other models to express requirements. They found System Flow Diagrams particularly useful:

“This set of System Flows helped in several ways. First, while reviewing the features and processes with business stakeholders, we could show what the credit system was doing internally and how that would meet their expected business features. Secondly, it helped tremendously to get the team on the same page.”

They also used System Flows to visualize the work as they sized stories and wrote acceptance criteria. And System Flows along with Feature Trees were helpful when planning for a second phase. They note that “… these visuals were so much more powerful than user stories alone would have been. Even in the world of API calls, pictures are easy and words are hard.”

During the quiet week before the U.S. launch, Candase spent a week pulling together all the visual models and documented the “As-Built” system. Encouragingly, “A year later, the team has turned over developers and Product Owners, but is still using the visual models and documents we put in place to onboard new team members and share that product knowledge.”

I hope you find the approach they took to communicating complex requirements as inspiring as I did. There isn’t one-size-that-fits all approach to Agile. And if you need to express requirements for complex internal system processes, visual models might be just the tools you need.


About the Author


Rebecca is President of Wirfs-Brock Associates and Director of the Agile Experience Report Initiative. She helps organizations and individuals hone their design and architecture skills, improve system quality and manage technical debt. In addition to coaching and mentoring she conducts workshops on agile architecture, design heuristics, and pragmatic software design. She invented the set of design practices known as Responsibility-Driven Design (RDD) and by accident started the x-DD meme.

Rebecca is also the Agile 2020 and XP 2020 Experience Report Track Co-Chair. She is on the Board of the Hillside Group and writes patterns and essays about sustainable architecture, agile QA, and design heuristics. If you want to share experiences or wisdom in pattern form, Rebecca can help you turn your itch for writing into the written word.
Read her blog at www.wirfs-brock.com/blog and find articles and patterns and essays on her resources page, www.wirfs-brock.com/Resources.html


This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.