Agile Software Development In British Communications


Abstract

In the past four decades there has been constant introduction of new approaches in software development. This is due to dynamic nature and cultures of the software producing companies as they invent new way to keep them in business as the competition gets tougher. Companies like British Telecommunications aims at development of high valued softwares within a minimal time possible and with the limited funds available under the present dynamic environments. This is aimed at client satisfaction hence greater market share than its competitors. Agile software development methodologies include Scrum, lean software development, extreme programming, kanban, crystal clear and agile modeling among others. They were introduced in the year 2001 to provide the recommended requirements for companies like British Telecommunications. This paper is based on the agile software development in the context of Porter’s five forces. It identifies the competitive force, or combination of forces, faced by British Telecommunications as a software development company.

Introduction

British Telecommunications is a United Kingdom based company dealing with telecommunications services worldwide in over one hundred and seventy countries. The services include telephony, subscription television and broadband. It was started in 1846 as Electric Telegraph Company later to General Post Office a government department. In 1980 British Telecom was formed and was privatized in 1984. BT is a world class provider of telecommunication solutions around the globe. Its main services are; networked II services, national and international telecommunication services. It also provides broadband internet services and products (BTGroup, 2012).

Software development is essential to every business in the world today. It is one of the fastest growing fields in the new world. Customers’ dynamic requirements make it more difficult and complex to design new software to cuter the needs of business. British Telecommunication as one of the companies producing and developing softwares for customers and for the company’s use. The old methods for developing software are becoming obsolete due to their inefficiency and  due o this fact new approaches of software development are devised to keep up with the rising demands in the market. Agile software development methodologies solve such problems by providing a more productive and flexible development processes. It was named agile in the year 2001 (Hazzan & Dubinsky, 2008).

This document explains how the agile development method is being used by BT in its day to day processes, the advantages and limitations of the agile methods. It also analyses the telecommunication industry using Porter’s five forces in respect to the use of agile methodologies in BT. The last part of the paper concludes the paper.

Literature Review

Software development’s history dates back to the year 1954 where a structures programming language known as FORTRAN. Just like programming software development techniques have evolved with time. The different development methodologies are used to guide the developers during the development process. This includes division of labor as well as management of all the phases in development process. In the 1970s there emerged a development approach; it was the first of its kind aimed at reducing, time, cost and the number of unfinished projects. Since then there have been more approaches such as object-Oriented methodologies (Unified Process and rational Unified Process (RUP)) (Sillitti, et al., 2010). This review analyses present research studies on Agile Software development.

Agile and Team Management

Based on different models like; “five dysfunctions” by Lincioni, 2001 and the previous one “Tuckman’s model” of 1965. While managing the teams the following should note general modern economic theories such as; people being self-centered, commercial strategies are always based on the rational expectations and that no five people can agree on anything. People factors impact the cost and quality of softwares. This is due to the changes in staffing, culture, values of stakeholders, and communication frequency and expectation management in a company.

Relevant Text

Here are some of the resulting papers from literature search collected from IEEE Xplore, ScienceDirect and ACM among other computer related databases. The following are the full review of some candidate papers.

Paper – WorkShift: The future of the office

The paper is written and compiled by Dr Nicola J Millard with Steve Gillies from British Telecommunications the paper’s main focus is on the changing and emergence of new attitudes and technologies as and when the transform the business places. It refers change in the work place as a foregone conclusion.  Use of previous models and softwares has become obsolete. In this paper BT is being referred to as an agile organization. Before the mobile technology cane into existence managers were there to supervise the employees. Time has changed and the company now uses softwares to monitor the activities in the company most of the being the once to monitor the services being offered by BT to its clients for instance the billing softwares used for broadband connectivity, internet TV and other related services. Work has become a thing to do, not a place to go, this is because most of BT workers are able to telecommute (Millard & Gillies, 2012). Agile approaches of software development have lead to the need of the human resource departments to consider challenges that affect people in the workplace.

Critical review of Agile Software Development

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

The agile manifesto was to guide in uncovering more advanced ways of production of software through doing the processes and assisting other to develop it. Through this work the following have been valued:

  • Both the people and interactions over processes and tools used.
  • The working software over the entire documentation.
  • The consumer collaboration over contract arbitration.
  • Response to changes quid pro quo schedule or plan.

This means whenever there are valuable items on the right side, the ones in the left are value more (Stamelos & Sfetsos, 2007).

Principles of Agile Methods

  1. Customer satisfaction through early and continuous supply of software.
  2. Incremental delivery of softwares over a short period of time.
  3. Business users to work on a daily basis with the developers.
  4. Motivate people to work on projects by providing them with the environment and support they need, trust then for the job to be done.
  5. Embrace change for customer’s gains.
  6. Face-to-face communication with the team.
  7. Progress measured by working software.
  8. The processes promote sustainable development. Sponsors, developers and users should be capable of maintaining pace identity.
  9. Attention to technical excellence and good design to enhance agility.
  10. Maintain simplicity.
  11. Self organizing teams produce best designs, tools and good developers.
  12. Regular checks on the improvements by the team (Rico, et al., 2009).

Agile Methods

SCRUM: Introduced n 1995 by Ken Sweber, it is simple and easy to document. It comprises project management in its practices. Backlog is used view the needs of the remaining project. There are three parties of the SCRUM; the owner, developers and testers and lastly there is a project manager to keep the team on track. One phase has to be completed for them to move to the next level.

Agile modelling: There is analysis of the complexity before the team begins coding. It was founded by Scort Ambler in 2002.In involves light weight manner during development using the values, principles and practices. It is considered an extension of XP.

Extreme Programming (XP): It was introduced by Kent Beck in the year 2000. Offers practices, values and principles used to run the development project. Most of its ideas are old but when combined they are different from the originals.  XP was meant for small groups working on non-critical products. This method is used by different types and sizes on companies. Easy to use in all the four processes that is plan, code, design and test. The figure A below shows how the flow of XP project looks like. Due to the constant communication between the stake holders, time to time moderation and simple design hence good softwares in the due process (Sillitti, et al., 2010).

Other methodologies include Agile Unified Process (AUP), Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), Lean software development and Cristal Clear among others

Advantages of Using Agile Methodology

Its lightweight functionality ensures rapid delivery if of business value softwares. This ensures reduced risk that is associated with development. The software product is of high quality and fit for the task it was designed for, this is as a result of constant communication between all the stakeholders. The team members experience full project experience than as in the case of the traditional methods. There are other organizational impacts of agile software development methods:

  • Organizational resistance to BT”s transformation as it can’t obey the agile manifesto principles.
  • Methodological quality impacts in BT such as agile adoption and improvement models, the agile quality toolkit and software solution frameworks.
  • The cultural quality on BT’s organizational culture.
  • Expertise gap
  • Future research directions

Problems or criticisms associated with Agile methods of software development

Agile development methodologies are inefficient when used in large software development project. When maintaining simplicity the programmers are required to work an extra mile to make it a reality. Because there are customers involved in the development process it may be difficult to maintain them in the team as they may lose interest. Agile methodology involves a number of people thus making a decision may be a problem due to varied opinions from a larger number of participants as compared to other development methods used in the industry. Agile methods lack proper documentation and structure that is necessary for future software development.

Analysis of industry environment

Porter’s five forces

There are five forces that affect every business as suggested by Michael Porter; this tool is used to assess the most strongest of all the forces in a business setting. For a company like BT to understand its current competitive position and the strength of the next step or position, there is need for the company to have a perfect knowledge on the strength alignment to enable it to take advantage, improve points of weakness and avoid making wrong choices. The figure B below shows porter’s forces as they act on British Telecom at any given time (Porter, 1998).

Potential Entrants

Threats from new entrants as they will add new capacity in the industry, this brings down the prices of products and services in the telecommunication industry. This is as a result of competition for market share. This threat depends on barriers present in the market. There are six major threats on entry into the telecommunications industry:

Economy of scale; this is the reduction of costs per unit of a product as the volume increases over time. For example

Brand identity; British Telecom has heavily invested in branding its products, this makes the products from new entrants not to sell well as most consumers prefer reputable brands.

Capital requirements; BT is an old but rebranded company, the telecom industry requires much funds to invest in. this is a disadvantage for a new company into the market as compared to the already established BT that invested in earlier years when the cost was lower.

Government policy; The governments in the market countries where BT sells its products may limit and sometimes deny entry into the industry by control of licensing and limit in access of resources for production of a product thus discouraging new entrances.

Access to Distribution channel; Most the logical channels are already being served by BT this makes the new entries to distribute their products through the BT channel which can be denied thus discouraging the new companies in the market (Gupta, et al., 2007).

Switching costs; this is the cost required to shift from one supplier to another, for example if a company using BT’s products wants to start using other products new in the market they have to train the employees, purchase new hardwares and softwares and technical cost among others this discourages switching hence no market for the new product (Porter, 1998).

Substitutes

Switching costs; BT can have an advantage when there is a substitute of the products that it offers. For instance the buyers if BT’s product may expect high switching cost therefore opting to continue using its product. The case turns against BT whenever its products are considered as the substitutes say in a different industry but same services.

Buyer inclination to substitute; more people buy product the main product when there is less  substitute in the market thus higher sales for BT (Mateo, 2010).

Price-performance at the cost of substitutes; with the substitutes available in the market the

Bargaining Power of Suppliers

British telecom is supplied with labor, electronic components, softwares and other many supplies. The supplier power can be influence the production of new products as follows:

Supplier concentration; IBM is the only supplier of mainframe computers to BT. This mean that the price of this product is determined by the power of IBM. This applies to all other products the companies it in the telecom industry competes for (Council, 1999).

Importance of volume to supplier; If a supplier produces more components to the market then their prices are likely to go down.

Differentiation of inputs; having a distinct difference in inputs to BT makes their prices escalate as compared to when there is no much difference between the given inputs.

Impact of inputs on cost or differentiation

Presence of substitute inputs; A company is able to supplement certain inputs with cheaper alternative products in the market. For example BT decides to use solar energy in place of electricity.

Bargaining Power of Buyers

Bargaining leverage; the bargaining power in a monopolistic market is low. BT has some products that are unique is such a market. This makes them more expensive thus more earnings to the company (Porter, 1998).

Buyer volume; BT’s corporate partners buy goods in bulk this increases the sales on the company as compared to other retail companies buying less products and services at a time.

Buyer information; BT through advertisement can educate the buyer on how a product is used. This earns the trust of the buyer as they now know how to efficiently use the service or products this enables it to sale them at higher prices..

Brand identity; BT’s products are great brands this

Price sensitivity; low switching costs and similar product makes the buyers more sensitive to the prices. This affects the sales of BT products and services.

Threat of backward integration

Product differentiation; BT manufacturing of products with notable difference enables them to be sold at higher prices. Rival companies may offer like products or services at the cost of BT’s products (Porter, 1998).

Buyer concentration vs. industry; with high numbers of players in the industry the buyer concentration reduces the same applies to the sales.

Substitutes available; telecommunication industry is well known to have many substitutes this results to a company not selling the main product at its optimum sales.

Buyers’ incentives; discounts, and offers reduce the earnings of a company.

Rivalry among the Competitors in the Industry

Exit barriers; the industry involves investing much money on the infrastructures and other related assets thus discourages BT’s weaker rivals from exiting the industry. This has resulted to BT acquiring many small companies in the past. For example,

Industry concentration; in a market where the competitors are many and have the same strength with same resources BT is prone to fight with the others for dominance in the market.

Fixed costs/value added; when the same products in the industry have to be stored or modified to fit into the market value. BT may be forces to sell the products at clearance prices. All the other competitors may decide to do the same thing thus fall in prices.

Industry growth; the telecommunication industry is a fast growing industry hence intensified the rivalry as well attracting new companies. But when the industry growth is slow then the competition turns into a market share game (Porter, 1998).

Product differences; BT having a variety of products and services that are unique gives it a competitive advantage when the buyers prefer then of the others in the market

Switching costs; the cost of switching from the telecommunication industry is very high this results to small companies being mergered into the bigger one like BT.

Brand identity; as a result of intense advertising and other promotions BT products have a higher command the buyer identifying them. This has seen more people using its products with reference to the ones from other companies.

Diversity of rivals; through the company’s innovation and marketing strategies BT has an added advantage to its rival who have not considered  using new processes of production.

Corporate stakes; corporate and government institutions being partners with BT has been advantageous. Corporate stakes provide new skills from universities through acquiring new talents from campus. It also helps in raising funds for investment unlike the competitors who have no corporate funding.

Recommendations

British Telecommunications can generate an appropriate competitive strategy in the Industry. This is to make sure that the goals and objectives of the company have a strong bond or relationship with the IS/IT project funding decisions. If BT’s strategies are well defined, risk of investing its resources in ineffective projects can be avoided. A good IS/IT strategy helps the company from falling into dangerous misconceptions. For example the best IT/IS strategy for BT is to introduce customer portals that allow its customers to access self-care or chat rooms with other customers. This can allow them to solve any problems before forwarding them to the customer care service officers thus reducing the work load. BT can form strategies involving continuous improvement of core operations and database management needs. This can be through provision of software updates to customers so as to maintain the efficiency of the networking systems. The strategy should have a scheduled time scale and aim/target. It should focus in new technologies, infrastructures, applications and conform to recommended standards. This strategy is either supported or impeded by the organizations existing IS/IT strategy and in order to smoothly implement it, the IT staff should be fully involved in the decision making process. Government policies should be highly observed to avoid conflicts (Earl, 1989).

Conclusion

Under the extreme forces as shown by Porter’s five forces BT can survive the pressure and remain the leading telecommunications product and service provider across the countries that it has already established its market share. The company through the use of agile software development methodologies it can be able to produce its own custom- softwares as well as the customers’ service softwares at cheaper cost without trade-off of the quality under limited time. This will give BT a competitive advantage over its competitors in the industry (Clarke, 2001).

Recent search terms:

BT agile methods |