Selling Agile to the CFO: A Guide for Development Teams - Slide 5

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Many, if not most, traditional software projects (and some so-called “agile” ones) are dragged down by technical debt. If your code is already clean and continually refactored, going into “debt” by cutting some corners to meet a critical business deadline and “paying it back” with later refactoring is a sensible approach. If your code is a nightmare of brittle, mysterious code that isn’t supported with automated regression tests, cutting corners is more likely to lead to disaster. Even the smallest code change might result in dozens of regression bugs, paralyzing the project.

Managing technical debt is a compelling justification for adopting agile. A commitment to quality along with agile practices, such as refactoring, test-driven development (TDD), acceptance test driven development. (ATDD), and continuous integration (CI), helps teams start chipping away at technical debt.

Do your homework, learn how to quantify your technical debt, both in the production code and in the automated tests (or lack thereof), and present the results to your CFO. Be ready to discuss why higher quality and fewer bugs directly affect the bottom line. Should your company invest time and money to reduce technical debt, versus spending lots of time and money to fix production bugs while new development is slowed? It’s a simple choice for most CFOs.

Your programming team is on board with agile and the notion of iterative design and development, but the financial executives prefer to think in terms of “Just tell me when it’ll be ready and how much it’ll cost.” If you can sell the CFO on the agile methodology, you’ll have an ally in the board room.

Agile adoption requires a big investment by your company, not just by the development and QA staff. Your team needs time to master agile values, principles, and practices, and to apply them to your unique situation. A culture of learning, time to experiment, and tolerance for mistakes are essential to successfully improving software quality and responding to changing business requirements. How can you get the resources and long-term support you need from the business?

Here’s a good strategy: Get your chief financial officer (CFO) on board. Telling the CFO, “We want to do this” probably won’t work. After speaking with both financial and software experts, including her own company’s CFO, Lisa Crispin, an agile testing practitioner and coach, is confident that you can make agile an easy sell.

Here are seven tips from Lisa Crispin, highlighted in her post on the Software Quality Connection, to help you sell agile to your CFO.

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