Compliance and Agile: 4 Challenges – and Help

agile meets complianceBy Ji?í Walek, Product Manager, Polarion Application Lifecycle Solutions

So… you’re facing a mandate for Compliance. Maybe CMMI, or even more scary, some heavy-duty government regulations. You know Agile is the way to go for your development, but will it fly when you have to satisfy tough standards? And not merely satisfy them, but prove it to Auditors on demand.

Let’s look briefly at 4 major challenges you’ll be facing, and at a free webinar coming up where you can glean some valuable pointers and information on meeting the compliance challenge while staying Agile. The challenges I find most important are:

  • Challenge #1: Tools and Processes People Can Work With

  • Challenge #2: Working software and comprehensive documentation

  • Challenge #3: Your Customer’s Comfort Zone

  • Challenge #4: Responding to Inevitable Change

Challenge #1: Tools and Processes People Can Work With

“Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.” — The Agile Manifesto1

You face the need for written information gleaned from well-managed data about your process from end to end. Challenge #1 is to provide teams a set of tools and processes that people feel comfortable and efficient using. That can be tough. Business analysts don’t want to be forced to deal with information in a “tracker way”. Developers can’t work efficiently from long text documents. How can you have all the project information well managed in the system, with meta information about the status, progress and all the related artifacts instantly visible in one place, in a form that different people are able and willing to work with?

Challenge #2: Working software and comprehensive documentation

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” — The Agile Manifesto1

You simply must be able to produce the documentation required to prove compliance. But you can’t afford to get so bogged down in doing that, that you can’t deliver working software.

The challenge is to setup an environment so you can trace the regulatory requirements down to user stories and test-cases, so the traceability gives you enough confidence of what requirements weredelivered and tested in particular release.

Challenge #3: Your Customer’s Comfort Zone

“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.” — The Agile Manifesto1

Let’s face it… Agile scares some customers because it looks to them like they lose control over what will be delivered, that the requested solution can be changed freely without any responsibility. Traditional methodologies seem to control the contract better. What if “the Customer” is actually a company with thousands of employees spread over several countries around the world? Can you possibly hope to impose consistency in such a distributed world?

The challenge is to ensure that for any request in the backlog, you can trace right to who, when and why it was modified, so you can prove any time where time and money were spent, and who requested it. And to assure your customer that you can pull that off consistently over time.

Challenge #4: Responding to Inevitable Change

“Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.” — The Agile Manifesto1

Agile is all about change, and the management thereof in such a way as to not derail the whole train. But Agile can be abused… often unthinkingly… but still abused. You certainly know the customer or the executive who is constantly after you for small changes and improvements, seemingly without end. Because you’ve convinced them you’re Agile!

The challenge is to set up a change management process whereby your customer is able to immediately understand the impact of a change in terms of risk, cost and/or time, providing a framework for effectively re-prioritizing a product backlog.

Conclusion and a Webinar that will Respond to these Challenges

Do these challenges sound common to you? Please let me know if you have had the same or similar experience, or if you have other challenges with Compliance that you’d like to discuss.

You should also consider attending our upcoming Webinar with featured presenter Senior Analyst and Agile ALM Expert Tom Grant from Forrester Research, Inc. There you will gain valuable insights and practical tips on meeting the challenges posed for Agile teams by compliance mandates.
forrester logo

  • June 28, 2011

  • 11:00 AM New York, 8:00 AM San Francisco 5:00 PM Berlin, Paris

  • Duration: 1 hour

[1Link to: The Agile Manifesto]

Want to stay up to date on news from Siemens Digital Industries Software? Click here to choose content that's right for you

Leave a Reply

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at