Agile Meets Big Iron: Agile Transformation at John Deere ISG

John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group (ISG) has recently announced that they are in the midst of a large-scale agile transformation that affects hundreds of software practitioners worldwide. This is a particularly interesting agile transformation for a number of reasons (many of which have been used as excuses by other enterprises as to why NOT to go agile), including:

  1. It’s BIG and they took an “all in” approach. Many hundreds of developers were immediately impacted.
  2. It’s distributed. Affecting teams in the US, Europe and India.
  3. Systems are embedded, real time and complex.  ISG builds solutions that consist of displays, receivers, guidance systems and more for BIG hardware, including tractors, sprayers and combines.  They also build telecommunication systems, websites and portals.
  4.  Delivery dates are fixed. New vehicles leave the factory every year, and they leave on time. The software has to be extremely high quality, and it must be ready on time, too. (No easy pushes to a web site for corrections, here)

Here’s a few pictures, just to give you some context on building software for things that really can “go bump in the night” (daytime too).

John Deere Tractor with GPS guidance system. Reprinted by permission of John Deere.

GreenstarTM 2630 Display, developed and produced by ISG. Reprinted by permission of John Deere.

Chad Holdorf, Scaled Agile Coach at ISG, has started blogging about his experiences at http://www.scaledagiledelivery.com . He has already put a number of interesting posts, all relevant to large-scale development, and many showing advanced agile practices at scale.

A Case Study

I’ll be blogging about this transformation too, in a lightweight “case study” form. The next post in the series, tentatively entitled “Reaching the Tipping Point”, should be available in about a week. Follow on posts will focus mostly on the major rollout activities and how they successfully addressed the larger challenges, challenges that (most) all large enterprises face when they head down this path.

A Special Thanks to John Deere

Rarely in our industry do we get chance to describe a real transformation, in real time, in a real company, so we are very appreciative of John Deere for allowing us to describe their experiences in this format. And we take pride in Deere’s courage to drive technological innovation in a business that was founded in 1837! Our hope is that these experiences might encourage others to follow down this path, and receive the many benefits – including the improvements, in morale, job satisfaction, and yes, just plain fun – that every agile enterprise can experience.

Background on John Deere ISG

From the company’s job posting website:

John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group plays a key role for Deere & Company in designing and delivering the technology needed by their customers to help them meet the challenge of growing more food and building much-needed infrastructure – challenges that must be met as the world’s population is expected to grow to 9 billion people by 2050.  They’re a great place to work, too. With technology that utilizes satellite-based global-positioning, John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group designs displays and receivers, guidance systems, field and crop management, and information and logistics systems their customers rely on. They leverage Agile project methods to deliver the most advanced innovations to their products. They foster a creative environment where employees feel empowered to put their best ideas forward and forge their own career path.” (And yes, they have ping pong and foosball tables. Maybe a future post about office environment changes).

Jobs at John Deere ISG

Like every successful software business, Deere is always looking for talented people. If you are interested in a new career, building software with agility, and more importantly, helping address the challenges of feeding the world, check out: www.johndeere.com/careers/

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