Abstract/Description

Ultimate Software is a leading provider of Global HR and Payroll software. Ultimate has been on “Fortune’s 25 Best Companies to Work For” list for the past 5 years and was named “#1 Best Company to Work For in Tech” this year. There's a reason for these accolades--not least of which is Ultimate's success with Agile practices. This experience report details the large at-scale adoption of Kanban at Ultimate Software and the successful results it has produced. We will detail the principles, processes and practices that were rolled out to 25 teams totaling more than 350 developers and how the teams were able to improve both predictability and productivity by applying these principles.

Ultimate first entered the world of Agile practices in 2005 with the adoption of Scrum to mixed results. In 2008 Ultimate started experimenting with Kanban by applying it to one small team first and then slowly rolling it out to all teams in the development organization. Following simple basic principles, teams evolved their own processes to best suit their business and achieve a high degree of operational efficiency, transparency, and predictability. Team commitments have become more accurate, user story throughput has increased by 150%, the number of features delivered has increased by 190%, and user story Cycle Times have decreased by over 50%.

In the early days of Ultimate's Agile adoption, Product and Development management only committed to 50% of the team’s capacity. This was due to instability in prioritization and the team’s inability to estimate work reliably. The development teams looked to Kanban and just in time commitments as the resolution to these problems. By operating stable systems and having a steady throughput, the teams were able to achieve a high degree of predictability when it came to delivering features.

This talk with outline Ultimate's journey through Agile and success with Kanban. We will highlight the things that made us successful and offer up some lessons learned. Come and here about a success story from one of the industry's most respected companies.

Additional Resources

About the Speaker(s)

Daniel Vacanti is a 20+ year software industry veteran who has spent most of his career focusing on Lean and Agile practices. In 2007, he helped to develop the Kanban Method for knowledge work and managed the world’s first project implementation of Kanban that year. He has been conducting Lean-Agile training, coaching, and consulting ever since. In 2011 he founded ActionableAgileTM (previously Corporate Kanban) which provides industry-leading predictive analytics tools and services organizations that utilize Lean-Agile practices. In 2015 he published his book, “Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability”, which is the definitive guide to flow-based metrics and analytics. Daniel holds an M.B.A. and regularly teaches a class on lean principles for software management at the University of California Berkeley.

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