3-Speed IT

The Journey

Projects (programs) succeed when everyone is travelling in the same direction, towards the same destination regardless of their speed, unless they hit:

Core Principles:

The core assumption of 3-Speed IT is that success requires 3 parallel events to be calibrated. 3-Speed IT is not a new concept, it a small twist on a well-documented but under practiced SDLC. Sometimes called tri-model where our three speeds align to pioneers, settlers and town planners (http://blog.gardeviance.org/2014/11/bimodal-it-is-long-hand-for-snafu.html).[i]

Supporters of 3-speed IT know through experience (or common sense?) that 2-Speed IT, Agile, Bi-Modal and maybe DevOps are all missing a key ingredient – the middle distance runner, the settler, the army – those forces that turn a successful Pilot or PoC into operational, cost effective solutions that align to business strategy.

1. The Sprint

  • 100, 200 metre sprinters.
  • Occupies the outer circle. Closest to the crowd.
  • Often referenced in Agile (Scrum), these are your commandos dropping in behind enemy lines causing disruption to internal dogmatic IT processes and possibly giving you a competitive advantage.
  • Runs in short, sharp “sprints”. Fast, high performance and tactical. They either:
    1. give the business confidence that a solution will meet their needs.
    2. crash and we quickly pick them up and push them back off.

2. The Run

  • 1500, 5000 metre middle-distance runners.
  • Occupies the middle lane. Sometimes reaches the crowd (business, users, customers), sometimes behind the scenes.
  • Has the broadest skillset. Can go faster or slower depending on need.
  • Requires speed but also steady focus for longer periods of time.
  • Not as glamorous like the sprint or as respected for endurance and tenacity like the marathon runners.
  • In many ways, this can morph into either track when required and this is a difficult skillset to resource (try Kenya).
  • If not appropriately resourced, projects risk a disconnect between the sprinters and the long distance runners.

3. The Marathon

  • 42km jog or the 100km walk.
  • The slow lane ensures business strategy, governance, enterprise architecture and best practices are developed and communicated.
  • Long cycles of preparation and implementation.
  • Their key role is in developing a roadmap for the others to use and guide their progress.

Implementation guide:

For the life of a program the business should try to put equal funding and resources into each track.

The technique managing 3-speed is simple and aligns to most software development version control numbering systems, for example you may have an application that is versioned: 7.15.4213 where the 7 corresponds to the Major version (the Marathon); the 15 corresponds to the Minor version (the middle-distance) and the 4213 corresponds to the build (Sprint).

A Kanban board can be used for managing this and ensuring you keep it light-touch, for example, you can have your 2 week sprints items in blue post-it notes (x.4213), your 3-6 month milestones for the minor build in green (7.15.x) and the major project releases (every 12 months) in Orange (v7.x). This is all very much a work in progress so please comment if you can think of any pros/cons or better ways.

  1. The Sprint
  • Run as an Agile Scrum Sprint with a Kanban board tracking progress.
  • Standups, backlog grooming, post-sprint reviews should be attended by usual resources as well as a resource from the Run.
  1. The Run
  • Attends Standups, backlog grooming held by the Sprinters
  • Attends meeting and workshops held by the marathon runners.
  • Sign-off or at least peer review Sprints deliverables as well as Strategy documents to ensure both can be aligned.
  • Ensures the Sprinters produce MVP products and documentation.
  • Ensures the marathon runners produce achievable strategy, governance and standards guidelines that can be implemented gradually through Sprints or minor releases.
  • Will initiate longer pieces of work when the risk of delivering iterative pieces of working software outweigh the business benefit. For example:
  • Support costs will limit the team’s ability to continue to iterate.
  • Workarounds that are unacceptable to the long distance runners (i.e. breach corporate governance or standards).
  1. The Marathon
  • Typically hosts project initiation, workshops and meetings.
  • Delivers long term strategy, governance, enterprise architecture and standards guidelines.
  • Develops long term change strategies that align with business needs.

The key to ensuring success is to:

  • place the right skills and on each track at the right time (obvious, but easier said than done).
  • ensure the middle distance runners know when to jog slowly to conserve energy or when to make a strategic dash to build distance between themselves and their opposition for either the finish line or to get ahead of a wolfpack or around a blockade.

[i] Or Commandos, Army, and Settlers in Robert X. Cringley’s three organisational types in Accidental Empire, 1993


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