Succeeding with Agile Approaches in LIMS development

Succeeding with Agile Approaches in Land Information Management Systems (LIMS) development.~ Steve Omondi, David Kuria and Charity Mbaka

This is a 3 Part series of articles demonstrating how Agile methodologies and  tools can be used to successfully deliver a LIMS Project of any scale (State, County or Country level). The articles is draw from the lessons from the development of the National Land Information Management System (NLIMS) for Kenya. A Project owned by the National Land Commission of Kenya.

Part One.

The development of a Land Information system which include software development and digitization of the business processes isn’t a particularly fast process. This situation has often led to many projects in the pipeline being terminated or ending up lasting longer that estimated due to changing business needs. This industry is now prime for disruption in an effort to reduce the associated huge budgets for its development. The Agile approach to software development has been positively disruptive helping build software that is responsive to client needs, while keeping the budget lines low, within strict deadlines.

The Agile Manifesto and the Twelve Principles of Agility when applied in development of LIMS seek to change things, speed up development time, and production of a quality working system. The application of Agile principles in LIMS development is not just on software but rather on the whole project management lifecycle especially considering its emphasis on collaboration and communication, and rapid development of minor cliques of features under the guidance of an overall project plan.

In this 3 part article series we will be exploring the Four Values of Agile Manifesto and the 12 Principles underlying the values and how they fit the process of LIMS development. We will assess why Agile Manifesto is good for LIMS development and how to apply it every step of the way if you are developing a LIMS.

To begin let us characterize LIMS projects, these characteristics will be the  key rationale as to why Agile methodology fits a LIMS project.

A typical LIMS project exhibits the following attributes;

  • According to MOUNTAIN GOAT Software, Aggressive Deadlines, High Degrees of complexity and uniqueness are key ingredients of software development that can only be realized by adopting agile approaches. All LIMS project are unique in terms of the business workflows which forms major component of the whole project. The business processes for LIMS are fundamentally different from country to country. Additionally, the business needs are usually very complex, entailing strict information access policies, large number of workflow actors with different roles and levels, complex document access privileges, multiple actors and stakeholders, etc.
  • Uniqueness (novelty) probably deserves to be a point on its own. When you are building a property management system, you don’t need Agile, because you probably have built a number of these before and you are acquainted with all the trouble that can come with it. However, the novelty that comes with LIMS, especially to the development team has always needed a completely different approach from the Waterfalls and the Sure Steps of this world. This is so due to the various R&D phase that the team will engage (dealing with unknown unknowns ~ Donald Rumsfeld), and R&D favors Agile.
  • Continuous Response to changes: these changes may occur on the design requirements, architectural needs, system features captured in the customer business needs or on the business workflows. LIMS is a subject of Government policies and is frequently affected by changes in the Land Laws of a country emanating from political landscapes. The changes may re-adjust the workflows, stakeholder and actors’ alignment in the systems, information/data access, the ownership of the LIMS itself among a host of aspects. These dynamics are impossible to cater for in the project plan, thus requiring a whole new way to respond to them than can be done in the traditional methods of project management.
  • Need for continuous alignment and delivery of System features through working outputs. LIMS projects are high stake, with several stakeholders and massive expectations from client and their customers, in this case citizens and other organizations, frequent customer feedback leads to an increase in overall system satisfaction by delivering results based on the overall vision and business value.
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In the Part two of this article we will discuss the Values and Principles of Agile Manifesto and how they match up to the characteristics of LIMS project as discussed above.

Steve Ochieng
About Steve Ochieng 10 Articles
Geospatial Specialist | Avid Reader and Vivid Writer here | Geospatial Tech Advocacy and Evangelism | GeoProgrammer and Follower of @geohipster