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June 15, 2022

How ValueOps Development is Fueling Better Software, Part 1: Clarity

by: Lynn Reling

ValueOps from Broadcom combines the proven investment planning features of Clarity with the advanced agile management capabilities of Rally software. With Clarity, teams can transition from project management to digital product management, speeding digital transformation. With Rally, teams can establish a single source of truth that fuels continuous improvement.

Both of these purpose-built solutions have set the standard for their respective domains. However, the way these solutions were architected and built varied substantially. Clarity was created as an on-premises product initially, and transitioned to SaaS delivery over 15 years ago. Our Clarity team evolved from more traditional methods and processes. This article will focus on how we made the transition and the key changes we made to increase productivity, quality, and speed to market.

As our Clarity development organization continues to advance its capabilities and expertise, many of the respective development standards and processes have changed. In this two-part blog series, we’ll examine how our development processes have changed and improved in recent years. In this first post, we’ll focus our attention on Clarity, and how the team employs innovative approaches that are yielding increased agility, efficiency, and performance.

Harnessing ValueOps to Improve Customer Delivery

With ValueOps solutions, the team is now able to make much more data-driven decisions, which spur on tangible improvements in several key areas:

  • Strategic alignment. Active prioritization to focus on delivering the right value. The new methods have allowed teams to focus and increase productivity by 45%.
  • Cost containment. Over a span of one-and-a-half years, the team optimized cloud services to provide a better customer experience, which reduced costs by 50%.
  • Resolution speed. In the past year, mean time to resolution has been reduced by 50%.
  • Productivity. Previously, build time was 18 hours. Now that time has been reduced to under 6 hours and continues to get faster.

The team uses Broadcom’s ValueOps solution to manage engineering and operations. They use Clarity to track everything related to roadmaps and funding. In addition, they rely on Rally to manage, guide, and track execution and perform quarterly capacity and team planning. They have dashboards that every engineer can see that present progress against plans, release tracking, and operational metrics.

The team has been able to improve discipline and consistency, while also granting individuals increased autonomy in how they do their jobs. All processes have been streamlined– from code to execution of test cases, code approval, and final merge with the main branch. Builds are fully automated, and each is followed by continuous test case execution to immediately find any issues.

The team has established extensive telemetry and monitoring and intuitive, tailored visibility, so leaders and engineers can quickly and easily assess overall product health.

Clarity Development: Relentless Improvement

Challenges

Within pretty much every organization, you’ll find technology leaders who are trying to improve their team’s engagement, morale, delivery speed, visibility, and product quality. Jay Arulandu, Head of Engineering for Clarity, Broadcom Software Group, was no exception. Since taking on the leadership of Clarity development teams just under two years ago, Jay and his team have been able to realize significant advancements in each of these areas.

The Clarity team is a large, geographically dispersed development organization, and struggled with escaped defects, inconsistent user experiences, poor morale, and spiraling cloud costs. Most releases were on time, but they typically didn’t meet planned scope—all pretty normal for traditional development methods.

Fostering Open Dialog, and Improved Collaboration

Before leading the Clarity organization, Jay spent almost 10 years within CA Technologies’ and Broadcom’s development organizations. Over many of these years, Jay saw that collaboration was being stifled, rather than cultivated. The team’s traditional processes also led to a large vertical hierarchy within the organization with typical communication issues. Collaboration was not part of the process, teams did not communicate with others, and skill development was not part of the norm.

The first thing Jay did when he became the leader was to establish more open communication. He made it clear that people could collaborate and talk to each other as needed, and the team was encouraged to “speak your mind and let your work speak.” It took time, but Jay met with every team member, asking for their perspectives and input, and listening to what they had to say. Everyone was allowed to give suggestions for improving the way they worked, and the teams were encouraged to find problems and make suggestions to improve the process. Each team member felt empowered to make a difference.

The opening of communication and collaboration between teams and individuals had an immediate impact. When teams encountered issues, they started to speak up. For example, if work scope and deadlines were unrealistic, they raised the issue so they could alter plans early on, rather than having leaders find out after deadlines were missed. By being more open about limitations and capacity, the team was able to start to better understand how much work they could actually complete. As a result, plans started to be much more realistic. In an effort to eliminate silos and foster continued improvements in collaboration and productivity, they’ve realigned teams.

The team realized its agile and CI/CD imperatives. They’re now making small, incremental changes, employing automated testing, and gaining faster feedback. This helps teams more confidently merge branches with master builds, and better prevent regressions over time. It also allowed the teams to bring the feedback to the Product Management team.

Improved Product Management Processes and Alignment with Development

Throughout this time, Product Management and Development were working on how to better collaborate. When using traditional methods, they made estimates during strategic planning, gave plans to the development teams with everything as high priority, and then development worked to complete it as best they could. It gave the appearance that nothing was getting done, because some of the highest priority items were extremely large — much larger than Product Management had realized. There was often a lot of back-and-forth friction between the business and development team, which decreased productivity.

Product Management also updated their processes to force rank prioritization and to not consider a plan set until the development team had it as part of a quarterly plan. Product Management made sure the objectives and goals for each ask were clear to the teams.

Using throughput as an indication of the amount of work that could be completed, Product Management and Development collaborated on creating the backlog based on the most valuable work that could be completed within a calendar quarter. The move to quarterly releases — versus the previous annual release cycle — gave both Product Management and Development better data to make the right trade-offs. This allowed the development teams to reduce work in progress and focus on specific tasks, which allowed them to deliver more value for same cost–and more features in the same amount of time. Trust also increased as the business and development teams began to believe each other.

Using Data to Change the Conversation

The teams started relying on data more and more to show them the reality of their progress. They created quality, velocity, and testing dashboards, which allowed the team to visualize areas of impact and make collective decisions on corrective actions, which they called “Engineering 360.” This increased productivity by decreasing wait times, and mean time to resolution. Another team mantra took hold: “Data-Driven Decisions.”

The DevOps team was fundamental in making work visible and improving speed to market. They automated test runs, improved integration tests, and the teams now run continuous regression tests every build. They refactored the test suite to remove old tests that were no longer valid, which led to a significant decrease in false fail rates.

They have significantly improved the upgrade process for all customers to a single window upgrade.

Enhancing Morale and Predictability

The QA team’s morale improved significantly. For the first time in years, engineers felt like their perspectives and contributions were valued. In the process, they came to care much more about the product they were delivering.

As morale rose, so did predictability. Soon the team was delivering what they promised, when it was promised. In addition, the development teams reduced escaped defects, and provided the capability for every team to self-service their own servers for testing and demos. This was a huge team velocity improvement and cost-saving initiative.
As an added benefit, because the teams weren’t cutting corners on testing to push something out the door, quality also improved. For example, over the last five releases, no priority-one defects were discovered.

Conclusion

The Clarity development organization has taken an approach that has fully empowered engineers across all teams to focus on customer value and to be more productive, while at the same time making work more enjoyable and fulfilling. For all these reasons, the team has been able to deliver new features faster, while continuing to improve product quality. In our next post, we’ll take a look at how development of our Rally solution has continued to evolve.

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