BT switches to agile techniques to create new products

BT is to revamp its product development process following the successful trial of agile...

BT is to revamp its product development process following the successful trial of agile programming techniques in its 21CN next generation access network project.

BT managers say the process cut the project development time from more than 18 months to nine, producing a return on investment of 80% in the first year.

Central to the plan is to equip development teams with £20,000 "collaboration cells". These are off-the-shelf Steljes touchscreen white boards, video cameras and audio links, placed in team meeting areas, where teams can share information and ideas locally and with colleagues in other centres.

Alan Bateman, director of next generation engineering in BT Innovate & Design (I&D), said BT engineers had integrated the components to allow the system to work over 2Mbps links.

"Normal videoconferencing would require a full high-bandwidth MPLS (multi-protocol label switching) connection, which meant we could have had about one or two per office. This allows us to have one for each team, or about one for every 15 to 20 staff in I&D," he said.

The roll-out now underway is expected to take a year or two to complete. It will link BT's five global development centres in Ipswich, Pune (India), Delian (China), Dallas and Central Europe, as well as smaller centres such as Cardiff and Edinburgh.

BT technology partners, such as software houses Infosys, Mahindra and Tata Consulting, would also have the cells in their offices, Bateman said.

BT customers are being invited into development centres to work with the teams as they develop their systems. A German vehicle maker and a Korean telecoms firm have expressed interest, Bateman said.

Bateman said the system was already being used to develop applications for BT Global Services customers, but BT Retail, BT Wholesale and BT Vision are using it.

"This is the way BT will develop all its future products," Bateman said.

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