The Privileges of Applying Agile Software Development in Logistics
The Overview of Agile Software Development
Have you ever heard about the term “Lean development” or “無駄”-muda? It’s the concept indicate the expenditure of resources for activity that brings no value into the end products. Simply, it’s a waste of resources. Such as, in logistics, muda here can be the transfer of unnecessary commodities or the time wasted for the next step to be carried out.
Especially, lean development occurs frequently in the software development process. So, to avoid it, several attempts were made and succeeded, but it was not until 2001 that all those approaches were finally named as agile software development.
Agile software development is more than just a framework or any practices in developing software. It’s the selective combinations of those parts, but at the same time also need to meet the value and principles asserted in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and the 12 Principles behind it.
The Agile Manifesto
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
The 12 Principles of Agile Software Development
In the family of agile software development, there are three kinds of frameworks: DSDM or Dynamic systems development method, Extreme programming, and Scrum. While the Extreme Programming method has been widely adopted as one of the most critical agile approaches, in the shoe of a logistics company, Scrum would be favorable
Scrum: The Most Suitable Framework for Managing Agile Software Development
If you are a hard-core football fan or just seasonal fan, you might have come across this term already. “Scrum” refers to the intense interaction of players at the close quarters.
While as a football team, the external input is the game plans, the direction of the plays and how the other team executes their game after the whistle. As a smaller, self-organized agile software developing team, the whistle here is the order of a client, their game plan is the framework and depend on those the groups themselves must determine the tactics for achieving their common objective.
The base methodology for Scrum agile software development: The users of Scrum method argue that software development is too complex and unpredictable to be arranged exactly in advance and that empirical process control must be applied to ensure visibility, inspection, and adaptation. The different environmental and technical elements (such as time frame, quality, requirements, resources, implementation technologies and tools, and even development methods) must be under control constantly so as to flexibly adapt to changes if ever happen.
These activities are carried out through an iterative and incremental development process which is express in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Scrum: Agile software development skeleton
The Product Backlog: Define the Goal of the Agile Software Development Process
To understand product backlog, first, you must have some basic notion about the product owner. The Product Owner is a person who represents the interests, requirements, and expectations of everyone with a stake in the project and relevant to the process outcome. She is responsible for maintaining the product backlog, decides priorities, accepts or rejects work.
A Scrum project starts as a user story is made; this could be a need for a self-developed app for the urgent need of your company. Then a product backlog is created and managed by the product owner. Here is a familiar example of product backlog for you:
In a logistics company, you may encounter the first case in which the product owner now is the warehouse manager or maybe some workers who directly use the software. They may require that the technology need to implement the use of RFID; the app should be supported by Big Data and have a multi-accessibility, etc. My advice is that the product owner in an agile software developing team should include the close collaboration of the specialists (in this case is logistics employees) and the technical product owners so that the outcome would not only well working but also professional.
Sprint: An Effective Working Method for an Agile Software Development Team
Don’t worry it isn’t “real” running!
In the Scrum project, every activity is done in Sprints, and each Sprint is an iteration of 30 consecutive calendar days. The output of each iteration is an increment of the end product.
First is the sprint planning step. The goal of this is to agree upon what stories end up in the sprint. For the example above your logistic company might want to prioritize the need of your warehouse manager and choose to conduct the activity first. The next step is to break it into tasks such as interview the manager, list down all the required features, develop the software, training the workers,… Then the teams are made to deal with them.
The agile software developing teams for logistics operation should be cross-functional which means that each group should have logistics specialists and technical software experts, developers, supporters, etc. It is essential to not solely focus on technical aspects, but also the logistics specialists’ vision and experience.
Second is the running and tracking process. As you can see in the skeleton of the Scrum process, the iterations are entangled with 24-hour inspections. The benefit of them is for the Scrum master to keep track of the work (to do list, in processing, finished, blocked). This will ensure one of the twelve agile software development manifestos: Business people and the developers need to work daily thorough the development process.
Lastly, after every Sprint, the result is a demo product or an increment of functionality which could be chosen as the officially feature, function, aspect of the main product, so that is why teams need to conduct a team review. Furthermore, it would be even better to lead a 30-minute-meeting for the sprint retrospective in order to put everyone on the same page about what we need to start doing, what is on hold, and what we should continue doing.
5 Benefits That the Application of Agile Software Development Would Bring to Logistics Companies
Agile software development provides various opportunities for stakeholders such as your supply chain managers or the warehousing managers and the developing teams to strengthen their engagement—before, during, and after each Sprint—which provide the team a better chance to truly capture their target user visions and requests.
An Agile software developing approach provides a unique opportunity for logistics executers and employees to be involved throughout the project, from product backlog to sprint planning and team review sessions to new features proposing. This creates an overview for the people of interest to track and control the process if needed.
Early and Predictable Delivery
In an agile software development procedure, time frame and deadlines are set in advance since the number of tasks and the time to process them is identifiable, each Sprint of 1-4 weeks, newly available feature is updated for checking and modifying. Therefore, the outcome is on time and as good as expected.
Furthermore, the predictability here can also apply for the cost of the process. And for a logistics firm or any other industry, the ability to plan ahead of time is crucial for a smooth work-flow.
Allows for Change
As stated in the agile software development manifesto: “Responding to change over following a plan.” One of the main factors that distinguish agile process is the agility to adapt, modify and be flexible in case that some change must be made. The advantage is significant sine the work of software development is so complex and unpredictable that the traditional approach cannot manage.
Focuses on Business Value and the Users
By allowing the product owners to determine the priority of features, the team not only create software that brings perfect value to them but also, by the tight cooperation with logistics specialist, delivers the elements that provide the most value to your business.
Agile software development is a powerful tool for logistics companies, not only providing the streamline of workflow for the development team, but also ensure that every detail of final product is valuable to the logistics industry and adhere to the need of your companies.
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