Rolling Out TSP Organizational Performance Improvement: A Case Study

Team Software Process (TSP) Add comments

Second Installment in a Three-Part Series
By Bill Nichols,
Senior Member of the Technical Staff
Software Engineering Process Management

Bill NicholsThis post is the second installment in a three-part series that explains how Nedbank, one of the largest banks in South Africa, is rolling out the SEI’s Team Software Process (TSP)—a disciplined and agile software process improvement method—throughout its IT organization.  In the first post of this series, I examined how Nedbank addressed issues of quality and productivity among its software engineering teams using TSP at the individual and team level. In this post, I will discuss how the SEI worked with Nedbank to address challenges with expanding and scaling the use of TSP at an organizational level.

Nedbank is one of several relatively large companies to successfully pilot TSP and undertake an organizational rollout.  Scaling TSP to larger organizations uncovers new challenges and introducing the agile concept of empowered teams across organizations requires attention to change management. There are two broad categories of challenges associated with scaling TSP to larger organizations:

  • The logistics of rollout and sustainment, such as support, training, and resource coordination
  • The change management problem of motivating the staff involved to take on different roles and adopt different patterns of communication

Nedbank addressed these challenges while incorporating TSP into its development methods.  Nedbank’s largest IT operations include several sites in Johannesburg; staff involved in the rollout are also located in Capetown, Paarl, Pretoria, and Harare (Zimbabwe.)   As I discussed in the first post in this series, the pilot projects improved Nedbank’s software quality, reduced costs, and enhanced estimation accuracy. The keys to these improvements were realistic planning, disciplined and empowered teams following defined processes, early and objective feedback, and validation.  These qualities were required throughout the rollout to ensure management remained committed to TSP.

Our guidance, based on experience with change management and previous TSP rollouts, was to

  1. Assemble a project team to plan and execute the rollout and manage expectations of the stakeholders.
  2. Develop internal coaching and instructor capacity anticipating foreseeable needs.
  3. Deploy to individual groups of staff initially (don’t attempt 100 percent deployment too quickly).
  4. Actively market the initiative to development staff to obtain buy-in.
  5. Use data to market to management to maintain sponsorship.

We recommended sponsorship of the rollout process by a high-level executive, with an operational “champion” leading the rollout team at the organizational level. Support at the organizational level provides budgeting certainty to give staff confidence that the TSP effort has long-term commitment.  Organizations must also coordinate budgets to ensure resources that support TSP are available when needed. These resources, such as meeting rooms or administrative staff, aren’t used on a daily basis, but rather occasionally, necessitating the need for an organizational support infrastructure. Initial budgeting is also essential because start-up costs are often a barrier for organizations.

A Center of Excellence to Manage the Rollout

A process improvement group sometimes handles rollout. Nedbank chose to implement its rollout with a funded and staffed Center of Excellence (COE). The COE provided an organizational home for the operational champion and his team (including coaches and instructors), explicit budgeting for rollout activities across the organization, and a focal point for managing the change internally.  The COE also addresses the sensitive and sometimes contentious issues of rollout, including resource allocation, project selection, coordination of training, coach selection and training, development team support, and rollout evaluation.  This choice in organizational structure was unique in our experience. It was also effective, which became clear as the project moved forward and the organization was prepared for rollout.

Marketing to Developers

Before a full organizational rollout, successful pilot projects are needed to validate that the process works and to get positive references from the pilot participants. Word-of-mouth promotion from peer developers who worked on the pilots helps overcome resistance to change from other development teams throughout the organization. Pilot developers can spread the message that TSP is agile and empowering. The empowerment associated with agile practices can sell itself only after the word gets out. Nedbank produced a video from the first pilot project to communicate how the change had it benefited the pilot staff’s quality of work life.

Another internal marketing approach used by the COE was to provide developers a comfortable and supportive work environment, and reinforce the sense that this was an important change. The COE scheduled space, ensured the allocation of specific work time for training and team launch, provided lunch and snacks, and prepared welcome packs with themed note pads and pens.   Removing some of the logistical barriers was important, but less than how the actions demonstrated the importance to the company. While managing logistical problems was critical, even more importantly, the effort provided a credible demonstration to staff that the TSP initiative was a priority.

Building Coaching Capacity

While there are other ways to support coaching as part of a TSP rollout, Nedbank is doing so through its COE. Part of the COE‘s job is to select and train coach candidates, then provide them with an organizational career path. The two initial coaches trained during pilots were soon supplemented by another group of six. As the organization rolled out TSP, we recommend that Nedbank identify candidates from working TSP teams because those employees had enough experience to make fully informed decisions. With only two pilot projects, this was not practical at Nedbank; however, at least one member of the pilot teams did enter the coaching program.  To augment the available coaches, we plan another coach class later this calendar year.

Training the Coaches

During the early rollout, most project teams will be using TSP for the first time. These teams require a coach for launch planning, stakeholder facilitation, launch, weekly coaching, process checkpoints, and post mortem.  While SEI staff or partners provide coaching for pilot projects, the organization must identify and train internal coaches for the rollout. The TSP coach will have substantial extra work during this period because TSP will be new to the teams, line management, project managers, team leads, business analysts, and other stakeholders.  It is the coach’s responsibility to ensure TSP is used properly.

Training a TSP coach requires a minimum of several months, often up to a year. Coaches require full PSP developer training, a week-long coach class, and mentoring through initial coaching activities before taking a certification exam. The training is rigorous because the coaches are the front lines of both organizational change and organizational project performance. Due to the time required to fully certify a coach, coaching is a major constraint in the rollout process. At Nedbank, the COE selects coach candidates, secures funding, schedules training, and deploys coaching and training to the projects. Coaches are responsible for maintaining team performance and helping stakeholders balance needs.  The SEI role at this stage is to provide coach training and mentoring.

TSP coaches receive instruction in organizational change management, but operate mostly at the individual and team level. The COE addresses change management at the organizational level. The COE first assures that management, team leads, developers and other staff have received the standard TSP training. The COE then offers specific seminars or short courses for developers, team leads, senior management, and non-developer team members. At Nedbank, most training was performed by the Johannesburg Center for Software Engineering (JCSE). Due to limited instructor availability, Nedbank is now looking to train internal instructors, as well.

Deployment progresses slowly at first when there is a limited supply of coaches. A common mistake is to provide TSP training simultaneously to everyone in the organization, while only a subset of the trained employees begins working on TSP projects immediately. Our experience has been that this approach fails because the employees’ TSP skills degrade without use. It is important to train team members within a short window—several weeks at most—prior to a launch. The COE, therefore, allocates training only after a project has been approved and a coach designated. The obvious problem—that this can delay project start by up to several weeks—has no simple solution; however, this is not a problem for longer duration projects (exceeding several months).

Marketing to Management

The COE establishes a set of organization-wide expectations, aligned with Nedbank business goals of reducing cost and cycle time, for the TSP projects. The coaches provide the COE with project summaries, including counts of projects completed, cost and schedule estimation accuracy, data quality, resource estimation accuracy, schedule accuracy, and issues found in QA and production.  The COE explains to executive management the project’s progress and how the project’s management dashboard aligns with organizational goals.

What’s Next

The COE-based approach described above allowed Nedbank to verify at the organizational level that the rollout was on track, provided credible data, and maintained sponsorship with the executive management board.  The third and final post in this series will examine how the Nedbank approach addressed key challenges alluded to by Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of the Scrum agile method, in his 10-year retrospective on agile methods.  If you’re interested in learning more about TSP, please consider attending the upcoming TSP Symposium in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA.

Additional Resources

For more information about the 2012 TSP Symposium, please visit
www.sei.cmu.edu/tspsymposium/2012/

For more information about TSP, please visit
www.sei.cmu.edu/tsp

To read the SEI technical report Deploying TSP on a National Scale: An Experience Report from Pilot Projects in Mexico, please visit www.sei.cmu.edu/library/abstracts/reports/09tr011.cfm

To read the Crosstalk article A Distributed Multi-Company Software Project by Bill Nichols, Anita Carleton, & Watts Humphrey, please visit www.crosstalkonline.org/storage/issue-archives/2009/200905/200905-Nichols.pdf

To read the SEI book Leadership, Teamwork, and Trust: Building a Competitive Software Capability by James Over and Watts Humphrey, please visit www.sei.cmu.edu/library/abstracts/books/0321624505.cfm

To read the SEI book Coaching Development Teams by Watts Humphrey, please visit
www.sei.cmu.edu/library/abstracts/books/201731134.cfm

To read the SEI book PSP: A Self-Improvement Process for Engineers by Watts Humphrey please visit
www.sei.cmu.edu/library/abstracts/books/0321305493.cfm

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