RESOURCES

Using Agile to Create Mobile Applications Outside of the Business

About this Publication

Tesco.com used Agile practices to rapidly create eight mobile applications across multiple platforms which have been downloaded over 1.5 million times in the first 3 months. Innovative solutions were needed to overcome challenges that included: several 3rd parties with the necessary technical skills, management of multiple stakeholders and the use of both onshore and offshore teams – few of whom had any previous Agile experience. The applications had an immediate impact on the existing $2 billion online grocery business, touching 5% of all orders.

 

I.      INTRODUCTION

Tesco.com is the world’s largest online grocery website, turning over $2 billion annually. In 2010 it became clear that customers would need to manage and build their orders on mobile platforms.

After initial proof of concepts the decision was taken to enter the market with a comprehensive offering of mobile applications – 8 applications were launched on four platforms: iPhone/iPad, Nokia, Windows7 and Android.

To achieve this, the team had to operate outside of the normal business processes. They adopted an Agile Way of Working and set about integrating various 3rd parties and offshore teams. This necessitated systems outside of the Tesco networks for managing the backlogs and the continuous integration process.

Agile was adopted at a rate that enabled the teams to deliver new applications to customers, whilst far from ‘perfect’ at the beginning it rapidly evolved into an effective development process.

Timescales were tight an needed to be synchronised with pre-booked, Christmas advertising campaigns. This required the business to actively manage scope throughout the development process.

 

II.      KEY TAKEAWAYS

a) Sometimes it is necessary to go outside of the existing business to deliver a new solution – however even this can, and should, be done using Agile practices.

b)  Agile with a variety of teams can work well: 3rd parties, onshore stakeholders, onshore and offshore development teams. Don’t expect it to be ‘perfect’ straight away, though aim to learn quickly with an inspect and adapt approach.

c)  Early Agile training for all was key to establishing the process and prompting team members to look for improvements.

d)  It’s possible to setup Agile tools, like backlogs and continuous integration, outside of the corporate networks to enable 3rd Parties to be active members of the team.

e)  Close collaborative working between marketing and development is vital whilst jointly exploring new technological and business opportunities.

 

III.      RESPONSES TO SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

A.   How did you uniquely scale, blend, adapt or evolve agile practices?

The urgency of the project and existing internal working practices necessitated going outside of the normal business processes Integrating multiple 3rd parties required publicly available tools to manage the backlog and continuous integration. We started fast and had to continue delivering – whilst adopting more and more Agile practices. This meant accepting non-perfect Agile but with a clear vision of where we wanted to get with our Agile processes. Developing mobile apps on multiple platforms required several ‘dis-located’ teams, evolving at different speeds.

B.   What mistakes did you make? What insights have you gained that others need to know about?

The APIs, to the core existing systems, were developed through an innovation team and weren’t properly tested until the apps were about to go live. The need to integrate the legacy software teams earlier became very clear after this hit performance and reliability problems.

Multiple disconnected stakeholders resulted in priority clashes and waste – this will be tackled with a combined backlog prioritising group, with transparent objective prioritising criteria.

The move, from an ‘innovation project’ to a ‘development project’, was more difficult than we anticipated – the initiation into an Agile way of working would be more deliberate and clear the next time.

C.  What was it like integrating agile development into to the rest of your organization?

The rest of the Tesco.com organisation is adopting Agile at a pace that is appropriate for a $2 billion live operation.

The mobile projects were more ‘green field’ and could therefore adopt the Agile Way of Working more quickly – they also required a higher proportion of external skills.

D.  How successful were you in overcoming challenges? What challenges remain?

The team was relatively small with clear objectives which enabled them to overcome many of the challenges. Mistakes were made, however with the tight feedback and validation loops in place we were able to improve rapidly.

The next challenge is to transition the mobile projects from innovation to a more ‘Business as Usual’ (BAU) process.

The work, in a BAU context, is less urgent and exciting and we will lose one or two of the initial program leaders.

Ensuring the appropriate budget, and including the mobile projects within the broader portfolio of projects, will be another organisational challenge. The ongoing management of multiple, varied stakeholders will require a different backlog management process.

E.  If you’ve been doing agile development for some time, how have your values or ways of working changed? What are you doing now and why?

In this case there was no previous Agile experience within the mobile teams.

F.  How have you uniquely addressed architecture, design, usability, quality assurance, hardware, deployment, marketing, product definition, or regulatory constraints?

Quality assurance: the team uses a continuous integration tool, however this remains a challenge across so many platforms.

Usability on new platforms like the iPad continues to provide challenges to incorporate design and build within a tightly-knit team. We are looking for ways to incorporate UX more successfully into the process.

We found that mobile app development naturally lends itself to an iterative approach, which has helped to align marketing and product definition with Agile development.

 

IV.     PRESENTATION FORMAT

We intend to present our experiences openly with an emphasis on the lessons learned and how mistakes were a key driver to the improvement process. We expect to have several more detailed findings by the time we would present at Agile 2011. As outlined above, several of the challenges in transitioning the project from an innovative, urgent project to a ‘just’ another project in a portfolio of projects, will be experienced in the months ahead.

We plan to show application demos to illustrate the iterative nature of the development and deployment to clients. There will also be humorous clips from the national advertising campaign that highlighted innovative elements, like the bar code scanning functionality of the grocery application.

 

V.      BACKGROUND ON AUTHORS

Andy Beale – Tesco

Andy has been a member of the IT department in Tesco.Com since 1999.

He led the customer facing development of Tesco Direct in 2006 and using XP techniques delivered a concept to live website in 6 months. Andy is currently the delivery manager for Tesco Smart Phone applications.

As part of his Programme Office responsibilities Andy chose RippleRock to help coach and evangelise Agile across the organisation to complement the Lean Six sigma BlackBelt work he has undertaken on introducing lean development value streams for product and IT delivery.

Bazil Arden – RippleRock

Since being certified as a Scrum Master in 2006, Bazil has worked with clients in a number of sectors, ranging from oil exploration to banking. Bazil has a broad business background including marketing, running a successful web- based applications company in San Francisco and experience in change management. Agile and Lean coaching has proven to be the ideal vehicle to combine these skills in the delivery of real value to clients.

As an increasingly experienced advocate of Lean principles, within the Agile/Scrum umbrella, Bazil has helped clients to understand the broader business context of their software development challenges.

Bazil has coached over 20 teams in 7 different countries and therefore has a clear appreciation of the cultural aspects of Agile adoption.