[Tool Review] – Wridea – For Thought Management

Ever had a great idea and needed a place to store it? Oh wait, you already have an app for that called Evernote. Wait, stay with us here. This tool that we found may just help you “visualize” your ideas in once central place and collaborate with other people about your ideas.

Enter: WrideaIdea Management and Brainstorming Tools

Continue reading “[Tool Review] – Wridea – For Thought Management”

Sustaining Agility – A Look Ahead

What Does This Year Hold?

As we look towards this year with anticipation I see that my clients have a ton of work ahead of them. Certainly it’s easy to get tunnel-vision, in that we have mission critical projects and focus solely on them.

Bottom line: we need to get them done.

But we need not forget our drive for continuous improvement and refactoring! Some things that have come to mind for me as we get steeped into our projects include:

  1. Evolving the current processes – Ask the question: “What can be changed?”
  2. Monitoring our current health with empirical skepticism – “Does this make sense?”
  3. Having a beginner’s mind and avoid the expert-attitude. – “Why are we doing this?”

These questions may be broad, but they also are good starting points for improving our processes. Keep a fresh perspective for the new year!

[Image Source: cs.cmu.edu]

Top Commented Posts of 2010

2010 has been a fantastic year. We’ve grown massively and have completed a lot of our 2010 goals. So what’s next?
2011 – We’re going to be launching some really cool initiatives and there are some very interesting partnerships brewing that will position us to better serve the Agile community in the months and years to come. Get excited. We certainly are.
A couple of hints:
  • Think “LIVE”
  • Think “Continuing Education”
  • Think “Maps”

Yep. All these are brewing. Stewing. Boiling. Here’s to a great 2011!!!

Top Commented Posts of 2010

[Tool Review] – Prfessor – Create Your Own University

Many of our readers are consultants, coaches, and Agile software development practitioners. We can help our clients, customers, and companies where we are, face-to-face.

Why not use online mediums to broaden our audience? We know that @pmstudent runs his own show on his site pmstudent.com and that works for him, but what about the rest of us? Ever wanted to set up your own class? How about your own University?

Enter: Prfessor.comCreating Your Own University Online

Continue reading “[Tool Review] – Prfessor – Create Your Own University”

[Agile Guide] – Story Mapping for Scrum

Problem:

  • You have a backlog full of stories.
  • You have a set of prioritized features that need to go out with your next release.
  • You are in need of a simple and quick way of viewing dependencies between stories and mapping features and tasks to their corresponding stories.

How can you easily connect the dots? With a story map.

Story maps are a great way to organize your backlog into a logical units for development. Karen Greaves has outlined a very simply way for you to build a story map and get back to workin’!

Her outline simplified:

Continue reading “[Agile Guide] – Story Mapping for Scrum”

Scrum Teams and a ScrumMaster’s Patience

We recently came across an article on Project Management and Patience by Bruce Benson. Our immediate thought was how this applied to Scrum Teams and the ScrumMaster.

Remember what the role of the ScrumMaster is?

To remove impediments of the Scrum team and the owner of the process.

We wrote a post on how a ScrumMaster can help out with communication here. Seems simple enough right? But with so many stories around how teams using Scrum are failing left and right, what could be some possible ways that a ScrumMaster can help their team out by not being patient?

Continue reading “Scrum Teams and a ScrumMaster’s Patience”

[Agile UX/UI Tool] – Wirify – Webpage to Wireframes

The guys over at Volkside have created a very cool tool Wirify for anyone in the UX and UI space.

Want to know how your competition is building their sites? Drop this bookmarklet into your bookmarks and give it a go.

See how we did it with Agilescout.com:

Agile Scout’s competition is tight. We’re going to rip The Critical Path by Derek Huether‘s site so we can copy how he runs the internet.

Continue reading “[Agile UX/UI Tool] – Wirify – Webpage to Wireframes”

[Agile Guide] – Rotating Responsibility for Scrums and Retrospectives

For those ScrumMasters who have started a new job or worked with a new client, taking the reigns and leading some of the standard meetings can be a challenge.

Hopefully there are only positive stories to go around, but sometimes a new ScrumMaster enters into a team that has been well established and set in its ways. Sometimes, a team has no idea what a daily Scrum meeting or Retrospective Meeting is.

A quick reminder of the Daily Scrum:

  1. About 15 minutes
  2. Everyone stands
  3. Everyone shares three things: What they accomplished yesterday. What they will work on today. Any blockers or impediments they have.
  4. Only developers and people involved with development may speak.
  5. Product Owners and other Stakeholders can stay silent.

A quick reminder of a Retrospective Meeting:

Continue reading “[Agile Guide] – Rotating Responsibility for Scrums and Retrospectives”

Week Retrospective 12 – Obama & Agile, Pivotal Tracker Tool Review

This week has been a slower week than usual. Lots of wrapping up to do for the year and taking a week off next week (not from blogging).

The mini Christmas tree is set, a couple of stockings are ready to go, and all the holiday cards have been sent out to friends, relatives, and those that really deserve coal… JK.

We came upon a couple of technical issues this week, mainly: www.embedit.in has been a complete #fail. While we could host documents on our own servers quite fine, we do like the GUI and the presentation layer that these 3rd party apps avail their users. We recently migrated all our stuff over to www.scribd.com and have been happy thus far. We’ll see how it continues to roll in the months to come.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Blog posts this week:

[Tool Review] – Binfire – Task Management – We took a look at this tool. Not too shabby.

Agile is Relationship Management – Don’t sever that relationship with your client. Communicate.

[Tool Review] – Pivotal Tracker – Awesome tool. Even added bonus documents with this review. Get your Tracker on.

Barack Obama told the Government to do Agile software development – Yup.

Kanban and Santa – A Christmas story.

[Agile Guide] – Writing good user stories – 3 great resources for writing better user stories. Read up.

Kaizen on for your life – Continually improve your live.

Continue reading “Week Retrospective 12 – Obama & Agile, Pivotal Tracker Tool Review”

[Tool Review] – Binfire – Simple BaseCamp-Style Task Management

Here is a tool that came up on our radar with very little flash. If you even look at the title of the tool and the features list, it’s pretty straight-forward:

Project management tools

  • Project Collaboration
  • Manage milestones
  • Todo lists
  • Online file storage

Enter: BinfireFile hosting, collaboration, and project management

Continue reading “[Tool Review] – Binfire – Simple BaseCamp-Style Task Management”

Agile is Relationship Management

Upon reading a recent article about “Never Trusting a Client’s Initial Requirements” we just had to write something in response. This particular article comes from the traditional project management camp and contains some pretty good points when undergoing initial requirements phases with a client.

While the author, Brad Egeland, makes some good points, it is apparent throughout the article that an Agile approach to requirements gathering sessions is really, in the end, the best answer.

Continue reading “Agile is Relationship Management”

[Tool Review] – Pivotal Tracker – Build Better Software, Faster

There are a lot of free Agile tools out there for Agile teams. Some are good, some are great, some just stand out from the crowd. If you’ve been doing some sort of Agile work, you’ve probably heard of this tool before, and there is a reason you have: It’s one of the best. Period.

*EDIT – This tool is now a freemium-paid tool. Find out the news here.

[Enter]: Pivotal TrackerBuild better software, faster.

Make no mistake. There is a reason it’s on top. It’s free, it’s light, it’s effective. Ok ok. Does it sound like I’m biased? Well, to be completely honest (as the reviewer), I’ve not only built training around Pivotal Tracker for clients, but I’ve created process documents, control documents, and sold several of my clients on Pivotal Tracker, or “Tracker” as the development team calls it.

As Joe Moore (@joem), a Pivotal Tracker developer, or “Pivot,” I met up with recently can attest, YES, I’m sold on Pivotal Tracker’s ability to manage Agile teams and their workflow with ease. I even showed him the documentation I built out for clients (which I’ll share here).

Does this sound like an unfair review already? Not really. Just because I’ve used it extensively doesn’t mean it’s a 10/10. Ready? Let’s dive in.

[Agile Scout reviews Agile Tools like this one. See more here]

Continue reading “[Tool Review] – Pivotal Tracker – Build Better Software, Faster”

Barack Obama Told Us to Do Agile Software Development – How’s It Going?

Back in late 2008, President Barack Obama and his Chief of Staff put together a new world order for government agencies to do Agile. To be 100% honest with you, I’ve been sincerely waiting to see how its been fairing.

Since I don’t work at the FBI and the Veterans Affairs, I’ve only been able to wait patiently and follow news reports of our new government doing Agile. We wrote a bit about the Veterans Affairs before, but a recent article we read let us know a little bit more.

What is funny to us is that the FBI and Veterans Affairs didn’t ask to be guinea pigs to test Agile. Reviewers gave the Veterans Affairs Department and the FBI credit for good intentions but also said their ability to fully embrace the many facets of Agile development fell short.

“The GAO report said that although the Agile process has given VA added flexibility and helped it complete early phases on schedule, the department has experienced reduced functionality and schedule delays for later phases. Meanwhile, a review of the FBI’s plan to use an agile approach to complete the remainder of its troubled Sentinel case management system turned up several weaknesses.” – Federal Computer Week

Uh oh. Looks like a case of poor implementation. The good news is that the reviewers said that it wouldn’t be too hard to fix.

Good luck there guys. With all the issues the President if facing these days. Let’s hope Agile software development can rise to the top as a success during Obama’s tenure.

[HT: FederalComputerWeek]

[Agile Guide] – Writing Good User Stories

This past month has been a good month to review what makes up a good user story. Several bloggers have posted on this topic and the Agile Scout has put together two of the best and decomposed them here.

Karen Greaves (@karen_greaves) has written about breaking down user stories and gives the reader a very simplistic view of the components of a user story. Interestingly enough to us, it was almost deja-vu-like to read her blog because it looked exactly like how we have broken down user stories for our clients!

Roman Pichler (@romanpichler) wrote previously about what makes up a good user story and 10 great tips on the small nuances of making sure your user story is in top notch shape for developer consumption. What we like most about Roman’s advice is that he suggests that people use paper cards (Oh no! Not a tool?!). Yes paper cards. Call us old fashioned, but we still believe in the tangible card and a big wall to post stuff on. But if you’d like to see the biggest list of Agile tools out there, you can always go here.

Recently, Zubair Ahmed (@zubairdotnet) wrote a post on how to gather Agile requirements through stories. Starting with the questions: “What is a story,” and moving into his observations from a presentation by Mike Cohn.

Continue reading “[Agile Guide] – Writing Good User Stories”

Kaizen – Continuous Improvement on Self

In order to continue providing value to our customers and clients it is important that we continue to re-evaluate ourselves as well. We’ve written on aspects of this before here, and here, but a recent article by Nathalie Udo reminds us of a couple more ways to evaluate yourself.

She comes at this issue from a different vantage point in that there are often excuses for why we don’t continually improve ourselves. Her points come from a recent PMI Leadership Institute meeting after the PMI Global Congresses by Troy Hazard.

The four main excuses we forego personal improvement:

  1. I have no time!
  2. I’m different (having a different personal situation)!
  3. I’ll look dumb if I ask questions!
  4. I don’t know what to do!

Continue reading “Kaizen – Continuous Improvement on Self”

Week Retrospective 11 – Kanban for Noobs and a Guest Post by Andrew Phillips from XebiaLabs

This week has been a fun one. From talking about Kanban for new Agile teams (n00bs) to learning that we can be a certified Scrum Trainer by signing up on craigslist, this week has been one of learning new stuff!

We wrote our two most boring posts ever, on Agile and the government as well as hanging out with William Shatner and the legal environment utilizing Agile.

With a wintery-wonderland happening in Atlanta, this past week has been a good one to hunker down and really focus on pushing out some great content. We’re looking forward to what the next year will bring!

Blog posts this week:

A Failed Agile Program – Lessons learned from a real life example of how one organization transitioned from Agile… and then back again.

5th Annual State of Agile Survey – From Version One. Make sure to check out the latest stats thanks to Version One.

Kanban is for n00bsCheck out the reasons why Kanban is good for beginning Agile teams or teams that are looking to do some Agile work.

Continue reading “Week Retrospective 11 – Kanban for Noobs and a Guest Post by Andrew Phillips from XebiaLabs”

5th Annual State of Agile Survey from Version One

2010 State of Agile Development Survey Results
A big shout out to Version One and putting together the 5th Annual State of Agile Survey. Some very cool facts and insights from this PDF download. Grab yourself a copy and understand the Agile landscape. Even more, start thinking about how you can change the future of Agile armed with this type of information!

[HT: VersionOne]

Kanban is Great for (Noobs) Beginning Agile Teams

Kanban is a method that doesn’t prescribe much at all.

In (simple) reality, there are only 3 main constructs to Kanban: A board, a Work-In-Progress limit (WIP), and a simple scheduling system. This doesn’t quite fit delivery planning and predictability in Agile software development and you can choose many other options.

If you have a fully robust and solid Scrum team, you may not want to go Kanban. So why is Kanban getting so much press these days? Would a fully complex development environment with all its issues and process needs go to a Kanban system?

Well, that’s what Peter Schuh asked a little while back, and found that his conversation opened him up to a newer realization: Kanban is great for n00bs (new Agile teams).

Continue reading “Kanban is Great for (Noobs) Beginning Agile Teams”

Agile Development in Law and Legal

Agile software development is picking up. We just wrote one of our blandest posts about the government using more Agile approaches, and it seems like the government aren’t the only ones that are looking to Agile to help them with their work.

Steven Levy recently wrote about Agile development and law and how the legal-world can learn a thing or two from Agile software development.

We’re encouraged that other industries are picking up on Agile. It’s a valuable framework for doing work! Now, is it just a philosophy or is it a process? Oh, that’s for you to decide, as long as you don’t say that Agile is a methodology in itself…

Steven has incorporated the daily standup for his team based on the need for clients and lawyers to be better communicators:

“Agile methods generally bring the customer/user right into the software development “room,” literally a physical space inhabited by the team creating the software. In other words, mediated, filtered, and sporadic conversation is transmuted into enhanced, ongoing, no-intermediary communication. While I don’t suggest attorneys have the client literally in the room all or most of the time, I do think they can learn a lot from understanding the benefits this level of communication.” – Steven Levy

Sounds good to us! May Agile grow beyond simple software development! I’m sure William Shatner from Boston Legal would be proud.

[HT: Lexician]

Agile Used in the Government – Veterans Affairs Success?

We recently read about the Department of Veterans Affairs using Agile to build their education claims system. But we seem to have found two conflicting pieces of information in the news brief.

“Development costs for the Veterans Affairs Department’s automated system for processing education benefits claims under the 2008 GI Bill have more than doubled from original estimates, according to figures in a new report from the Government Accountability Office.”

The claims system was supposed to be finished this month at the tune of $95 million buck-a-roos. BUT! The project is running behind schedule and the total costs have soared to $207.1 million. The project will subsequently run through the fiscal year of 2011.

They claim to use an Agile-approach.

Interestingly enough, the Veterans Affairs CIO, Roger Baker responded to the late release as a “stunning and unpredicted success” in the over-budget and late deployment of the claims solution this month. He also stated that the system is “flawless” in its functionality and questioned whether the auditors even understood Agile software development.

Continue reading “Agile Used in the Government – Veterans Affairs Success?”

Forget CST! You can be an Agile Trainer from Home via Craigslist!

Investigative reporting at it’s peak here. Someone dropped this little gem in our inbox and we decided to check it out. So we emailed the listing. Had an interesting talk with a guy on the other line that seemed a bit sketchy to say the least. He wanted us to:

  1. Build out an Agile Coaching plan
  2. Give it to them
  3. They advertise it
  4. Clients pay for the webinar online
  5. You get paid!

It’s a win-win!

#fail

Like 5pm Tool for Project Management? – iPhone Edition Launched!

If you’re a fan of 5pm for Project Management, you now have access to their tool on the iPhone. So far, it looks pretty. Track your projects on the go!

Find it on the App Store here.

Continue reading “Like 5pm Tool for Project Management? – iPhone Edition Launched!”

Unlocking the Full Potential of Agile with Deployment Automation

[This is a guest post from Andrew Phillips, VP of Product Development, XebiaLabs. Andrew joined XebiaLabs in March of 2009 where he is responsible for the development of its deployment automation product, Deployit. He is a regular industry contributor and often speaks and writes on topics surrounding release management and deployment automation.]

Undoubtedly, one of Agile’s greatest benefits is its ability to deliver working tested software in much shorter iterations.

However, this benefit can also be a detriment in terms of deployments and getting applications to market.

While development teams are able to create many, more frequent deliverables, this often creates a backlog for operations teams as they struggle to deploy the applications as quickly as they’re produced.

Luckily, organizations can overcome this issue by implementing an automated deployment process, which keeps the more frequent deliverables on track. With deployment automation software in place, IT departments can avoid this potential backlog and bridge the gap between development and operations teams that results from the more frequent deliverables. This allows them to still take advantage of all the benefits Agile brings to a company, such as higher productivity levels and shorter time to market, without worrying about their operations teams constantly playing catch up. Without deployment automation, companies cannot unlock the full potential of Agile.

Continue reading “Unlocking the Full Potential of Agile with Deployment Automation”

December Giveaway WINNERS!

Winners are announced! Make sure you send us an email with your address info and we’ll ship off this free swag! (info [at] agilescout [dot] com) Tweet about your win too! :)

1. $100 Best Buy certificate to:

2. @agile_reception Mug goes to:

3. Fatal Illusions book by James Lucas goes to:

Thanks so much for your readership!

[See our past giveaways here]

Be a Servant Leader for Your Agile Team

We came across a couple articles this past month that really hit home for us as Agile practitioners. We must be servant leaders. As a leader it is your job to continue to be the vision and voice reminding your team of it’s values. Michael Stallard tells us about a Retired CNO Naval Admiral Vern Clark, who was formerly the chief of the U.S. Navy from 2000 until 2005. When Admiral Clark became the chief one of the biggest issues were the re-enlistement numbers. It seemed like year over year the re-enlistement was going down. He had to do something.

“As the Navy improved sailor retention and developed greater alignment with Admiral Clark’s vision, it became faster and more responsive…Servant leaders such as Admiral Clark outperform other leaders because they move people to “surrender the me for the we” and it is nearly always the case that we accomplish more when we are pulling together than when we are drifting apart.”

Such stories give us a front row seat to how leaders work in other environments. We can glean a lot from other leaders in different industries and apply them directly to what we do in Agile software development.

Continue reading “Be a Servant Leader for Your Agile Team”

[Tool Review] – Planbox – Be Agile in Management

One of our Scouts was searching around the interwebs and found this little gem of an Agile tool. We haven’t heard too much about it before, but we thought we’d give it a spin.

Enter: PlanboxBe Agile in everything you manage

Upon first look it has many features to be desired in an Agile tool, and this particular tool, homegrown in it’s roots fits Agile, exactly. What we like is a little bit of the backstory: These guys couldn’t find an Agile tool they liked… so they built it!

Continue reading “[Tool Review] – Planbox – Be Agile in Management”

Week Retrospective 10 – ScrumMasters aren’t PM’s, Agile Lifestyle, and December Giveaway!

This week hasn’t been too crazy, like the previous weeks. We’ve kept things in line, continuing to push valuable content daily.

A couple of things to remember:

December Giveaway is closing this weekend!

Aldon Agile Manager Tool has been released this month. It’s free and it’s awesome. Make sure to drop by our premier review of it!

Continue reading “Week Retrospective 10 – ScrumMasters aren’t PM’s, Agile Lifestyle, and December Giveaway!”

A ScrumMaster Does NOT Equal a Project Manager

Scenario: Your a newly appointed Certified Scrum Master and you have enough experience to back up your Agile-ness, or you may have a desire to fill a more Scrum-role instead of traditional project management.

No problem! Log onto your nearest job site and type in “ScrumMaster.”

This is what you see:

Continue reading “A ScrumMaster Does NOT Equal a Project Manager”