Agile Testing Days Netherlands – February 13, 2014

peter-saddington-agile-testing-day-netherlands-den-haag

Agile Testing Days 2014 in Den Haag, Netherlands is coming up, and I’ve been blessed enough to be part of the team of speakers.

The guys who put together these conferences are top notch. This will be my 4th event with them!

I love presenting to the people here in Europe. Awesome people. Lots to learn. What a great “job” we have!

Hope to see you there!

-ps

Using Content Marketing to Attract More Customers-Part 1

agile-social-media-build-traffic-content-trust

[As some of you know, we like to promote good ideas for other bloggers out there that are in the Agile space. We haven’t heard from Ed Hill, our resident SEO expert in a while. Good to see some stuff that is useful for Agile Bloggers!]

Content marketing is the development and distribution of relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage consumers.

Content Marketing Builds Trust with Customers
Content Marketing Builds Trust with Customers

If you’re marketing your small to medium business, you’ve seen the frenzy over content marketing. Why is content marketing getting so much attention? Why is content so effective at building traffic and sales leads?

We’re going to quickly cover:

  • What content marketing can do for your business
  • Why it works to attract customers to your online business
  • What to write about
  • How to get started

Just in the last week I’ve seen several articles on major media sites like Search Engine World, Forbes and the Huffington Post. You can skip the Huffington opinion piece, which claims, “There is no formula”, while checking out Drew Hendricks coverage of useful content building tools in Tips For Building A Strong Content Marketing Plan For 2014 . While there is no formula for quality content marketing, there is a process that you can use for your content marketing. 

Because you’re focused on marketing a small or medium business, you may not have a large enough team or the time for the formal content strategy process. But you don’t want to start without planning. You can’t build traffic by randomly posting social media snippets and blog articles on topics that don’t matter to your customers. There is a happy balance between the two extremes. We’re going to walk through a quick and effective process that mixes some practices from content strategy and methods from search engine optimization. The goal here is to quickly deliver content that matters to your customer and helps fulfill your goals as a business.

Content creation is a powerful and effective marketing strategy to build web traffic and sales leads, but it’s also expensive in terms of time and effort. 

What Content Marketing Delivers for Your Business

  • Relevant content is ideal for building customer rapport and trust
  • Consistent content creation helps to form a relationship where customers learn how to solve their problems and come to rely on your business for trustworthy information
  • Reassuring content such as testimonials and reviews helps customers lose their fear of loss, which is a natural part of the buying cycle
  • Because content marketing seeks to answer customer questions and doubts it’s appropriate at almost every stage of the buying cycle
  • Content marketing is also a rich source of relevant content that search engines will favor with higher search engine visibility and increased natural search traffic
  • Building carefully crafted headlines for your content will also deliver social media content that is easy for readers to share

How Much Content Should We Build to See Improvement in Web Traffic and Sales

  • My experience with content building shows that 100 to 300 pages of new blog or website content is needed to see a substantial increase in web traffic and sales leads
  • Building 51 to 100 pages of content can generate 48% more traffic than web sites with less than 50 pages, according to the Hubspot Marketing Benchmarks from 7000 Businesses

When practiced consistently, I’ve seen content marketing deliver substantial increase in web traffic and sales. With an efficient team posting content on a daily basis and building and responding to your community of customers through social media, you could see traffic almost double as I did with my work for ApartmentGuide.com.

Why Does Content Marketing Work so Well?

When customers are seeking a solution to a problem or a product to fulfill a need they will typically gather information before buying anything that costs more than $100. The customer wants to strike a balance between the need to solve their problem and the fear of loss. The fear of loss occurs because the customer often does not know enough about what type of products can solve their problem or even how to find the best product to solve their problem. Especially when buying something they’ve never purchased before or when spending a large amount of money, the customer begins to fear that they will buy the wrong product, pay too much for the product or even buy a product that fails to solve their problem.

Content marketing eliminates the customers fear of loss by giving them enough information to understand:

  • what types of products are available to solve their problem
  • how to judge if a product is suitable for what they need
  • how to compare competing products
  • how to judge if the price is fair for the value offered
  • how to use the product to solve their problem
  • social proof content like reviews or testimonials can be especially reassuring to customers

In part 2 we’ll talk about how to research the types of content that matter to your customers and then how to start the content marketing process.

Leadership is Stewardship

northpoint-be-rich-campaignOne of my personal living heros is Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church who I’ve heard speak about leadership and stewardship many times.

One of my most favorite quotes of his in regard to this idea is the following:

Leadership is stewardship, it’s temporary and you’re accountable.

I love this dynamic because it brings to light two valuable points that we all must take notice of, especially if you are in fact in positions of leadership.

The first point is that it’s very temporary – no one lasts forever as a leader within their organization and role. Things change, times change, and very quickly organizations need to drop the old and bring in the new. Oftentimes this means bringing in younger talent to replace and continue to build the momentum of the business.

Sometimes this truth can be very difficult for some to fully grasp and admit – that there will be a time when they will have to give up their role as a leader, their title, and their position for fresher and more able hands. Many of us, unfortunately, have experienced this in the context of bad leadership and a leader who refused to give up their seat at the top because of their ego, pride, and selfishness. The fallout, naturally, was just as negative.

The second point is closely tied to the first and is just as overlooked as the first as well. The idea is that you’re simply responsible for the time you have as a leader and that your actions and leadership will direct the course of the business and many people’s lives – that’s a big responsibility and burden!

It’s a good burden to bear but it’s not one that all leaders are aware of and/or cognizant of enough – that their actions, words, and thought-patterns really do matter and that it is in their best interest to consider their time in leadership of the utmost importance. Combine this with the fact that it’s temporary and it means that you really don’t have much time to lose – you must create significant impact while you are there or your time will appear, historically, as just another blip on the radar and you’ll be forgotten as just another guy who sat at the end of the table for a time.

No one wants to be remembered that way – we all must make the necessary and right decisions to lead our teams and organizations well, create the value that they need to be highly productive, and give them the tools to make that happen.

Leadership is less about telling others what to do (in fact it’s rarely that at all) and more about giving them the right and privilege to speak into their own roles and responsibilities with freedom and joy. Out of this enjoyment comes extreme productivity and value.

Healthcare.gov – A Great Example of Failing… without Agile

mckinsey-review-healthcare.gov

This is a story of contrast between two popular methods of software development. One is called “waterfall,” the other, “agile.”

Waterfall development favors listing a huge set of requirements for a system up front, letting developers go away for months (if not longer) and expecting a huge software product in the end.

The agile method does the opposite, favoring work done in phases, delivering “minimum shippable” parts of a software system in weekly or biweekly cycles. This allows for iterating — or adjusting to hiccups discovered in the previous cycle, changing features or quashing bugs quickly and avoiding getting an end product that doesn’t look a thing like what your users need.

Like many government projects, HealthCare.gov was developed under the waterfall approach — and to its near doom.

The key findings in the presentation found here come on Page 5. Even though it was written in March, the slide sums up most of the key problems we eventually saw with the rollout of HealthCare.gov last month: limited testing time, evolving requirements, over-reliance on contractors and “stacking” of all the phases of development. The really damaging decision, according to the consultants: launching “at scale.”

Find the full story here, and the slides here.

[HT: NPR]

Dysfunctional Retrospective via Chat

All names changed to protect the… … innocent… [WARNING – LANGUAGE]

(10/11/2013 16:15:58) xxx: that was pretty much going to be my argument
(10/11/2013 16:16:24) xxx: let go of the old sh*t. Join the group doing scrum over here you cranky tw*t
(10/11/2013 16:16:31) bbb: I don’t have nice things to say about DDD.
(10/11/2013 16:16:43) aaa: really??
(10/11/2013 16:16:44) xxx: this is my first run in with him
(10/11/2013 16:16:47) bbb: he’s the 4-letter word GGG banned me from saying.
(10/11/2013 16:16:52) aaa: hadn’t noticed haha
(10/11/2013 16:17:06) aaa: hahaha he brings out the best in everyone it seems!
(10/11/2013 16:18:09) xxx: and maybe if he would just do the cases he needed to work on he wouldn’t feel quite as rushed
(10/11/2013 16:18:27) xxx: instead of grabbing sh*t from our queue
(10/11/2013 16:19:09) bbb: HHH is as useful as EEE.
(10/11/2013 16:19:29) aaa: who are both as useful as GGG
(10/11/2013 16:20:16) bbb: haha yeah
(10/15/2013 09:07:12) ccc: Well this is a clusterf*ck.

===

Yes, while I understand that sometimes teams need to be dispersed and all over the world… when (as a consultant), I’m privy to the dysfunctions of a current system… well… things need to be changed.

The saddest part about seeing this conversation happen is the fact that:

  1. These engineers are top notch
  2. They are great at what they do
  3. They have been put in positions where they can’t affect change
  4. They have been disenfranchised for a long time… some are near apathy

Dear Management,

Don’t do this.

-kthxbye

Top ScrumMaster + Scrum Product Owner Questions from Training – FAQ

scrum-alliance-challenges-donna-farmerScrum is easy to understand.

It can be the hardest thing to actually do.

Below are some of the most common questions we see in ScrumMaster and Scrum Product Owner courses.

Before you go through this, it may be very helpful to first understand the following:

Eventbrite - Certified ScrumMaster Course (CSM) in Atlanta, GA - Bring a Friend = iPad!
Eventbrite - Certified Scrum Product Owner Course (CSPO) - Get Certified in Atlanta, GA

FAQ on Most Common and Top Questions from ScrumMaster or Scrum Product Owner Training

How can Agile/Scrum be applied to Hardware or Solution projects?

Scrum Development doesn’t really work well in hardware development except in the aspects of hardware development that are done using software. Agile as a philosophy, though, works EVERYWHERE.

For example, the modeling and planning of the hardware can be done iteratively. The creation of simulation software (if applicable) can be done iteratively. Beyond this, however, much of hardware development is a task flow that must be followed and can be easily mapped out.

Scrum, however, can be used by people creating hardware. There’s still a Product Backlog. People can still commit to a certain amount of work in the Sprint. Daily Scrums can still be done to improve synchronization and communication.

Does Scrum conform to PMI standards? If so, how?

By definition, Scrum can’t confirm to PMI. PMI is a project management method. Scrum is a framework for managing people and workflow. It’s kinda like asking about the difference between apples and oranges. They’re just two different things. Not much else can be said.

What is a typical implementation of change from waterfall to Scrum?

  1. Start with understanding your culture. Period.
  2. Create a transition team to set vision, milestones, goals.
  3. Pick a pilot project —OR — a piece of a larger project
  4. Provide the proper training for the proper personnel
  5. Run several Sprints — adjust as needed
  6. Evaluate your results, adjust as needed
  7. Move on to a larger group (e.g., another product development group) and repeat steps 3-6.

In Agile/Scrum, how do we deal with people working across multiple projects in parallel?

Well, pretty much the same as you do now. The detrimental impact to your projects before Agile/Scrum will still be there after. Working on projects in parallel is not an issue of development method. This is not a question of looking for the development method that WILL allow you to work on multiple projects at the same time. The answer we’re looking for is to find a way to work on one project at a time in such a way that all projects get done faster and with higher quality.

How many Scrum teams can a Scrum Master realistically run?

That has everything to do with the ScrumMaster, the teams, and the product. Experienced teams don’t need ScrumMasters as much. Experienced ScrumMasters can work with more teams efficiently. Difficult products can make both teams and ScrumMasters work harder to accomplish the same thing. In my experience, I’ve never seen a ScrumMaster work with more than three teams at one time (and not very successfully).

Driving efficient and simple solutions in Sprints – can Scrum design and work complex solutions effectively?

I frequently hear concern that Agile Development can handle complex problems because it doesn’t try to solve the entire thing up front before building it. The reality that I’ve experienced shows that complex problems cannot be solved in detail up front because there are too many variables and too many assumptions made about the complex problem when working out a solution. Thus, we end up spending a bunch of time up front to build a solution that ends up changing in large ways during the development effort. Agile Development, on the other hand, encourages looking at a complex problem at a high level and then solving the parts one at a time. Does this mean that Agile Development might make some mistakes in solution during the development effort? No. However, because you will spend so much less time up-front trying to create a solution, you will have some time during development to build a solution and even some time to make mistakes.

So, Agile Development solves complex problems “efficiently,” if not “effectively.”

Role of wikis or collaboration tools in Scrum?

Can be useful in allowing Scrum teams that are non-co-located to communicate. They don’t replace face-to-face communication, however, and should not be used as a complete replacement.

Where does Scrum track risks and major impediments?

Impediments are generally tracked, per Scrum, in the organizational or team impediment list. Beyond Scrum, project risks are generally handled in some form of project risk tracker or document. Backlog related risks are handled within each backlog item in the form of notes and other documentation and in larger story point estimates to account for the impact of the risk.

Does Scrum state that teams must use User Stories or are Use Cases acceptable as well?

Scrum does not make any assumption about the construction of a Product Backlog item (PBI). It can be anything from a task, to a feature, to a scenario, to a defect ID.

How to handle high priority fires/opportunities in the middle of a Sprint?

Per Scrum, high priority fires (defects) may pass directly into the Sprint. The team should address the defect and then determine the impact to their commitment to the Product Owner and adjust accordingly. Per Scrum, high priority opportunities either wait until the next Sprint or cause an injection of change so that a new Sprint can be planned around the high priority. In reality, teams and Product Owners will often remove a lower priority PBI in favor of a new, high priority PBI (the catch is to remember to solve and plan the new PBI — that’s why Scrum measures the change, to force the replan and conversation that must take place when (not if) change happens).

Are key decisions in Scrum tracked in non-functional requirements & stories?

That depends on the nature of the decision. Decisions that affect NFRs are frequently captured in PBIs or as a separate part of the DONEness definition.

When do you do functional testing, performance testing, volume testing, ADA testings, and deployments to test environments?

As often as possible. Daily if you can (which means that the testing needs to be automated). Deployments to test environments are completely dependent on your frequency of testing. Deferring testing creates technical debt.

At what point do you plan for the next Sprint since planning will take away team time from the current Sprint?

Yes, its true that planning takes time away from building, but we have to do it anyway, so NOT doing it isn’t the solution (nor is only having certain individuals do the planning — that just takes your developers out of the loop at a critical juncture). I use backlog grooming workshops scheduled for 60-90 minutes once or twice a week to allow the team to discuss what’s coming up in the next Sprint (and get it ready for solving). This allows the team to think about what’s next without being interrupted too often to do it. Teams that do this can accomplish more and more preparation in less and less time. Then, when Sprint Planning comes along, we spend the proper amount of time (1 day for a 4 week Sprint, 1/2 day for a 2 week Sprint) doing an effective job of planning because the PBIs are now nice and small and everyone understands much of the functional requirement of the PBI.

Any pointers to good books or websites about QA within Scrum?

Lisa Crispin, Brian Marick, Janet Gregory. Lisa and Janet have a good book out there called, Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams.

In your experience, what techniques have you used to recognize top performers? Is it recommended?

This is a loaded question at best. Scrum is all about teams and teamwork. Going out of your way to identify individuals could hurt those who are really trying, but aren’t the ones recognized. I think the question you have to ask yourself is, “why are you looking for top performers?” What is it you want to do? Do you want to recognize them for high performance? Yes? But why would you want to do that in an organization that is looking for high performing teams, not high performing individuals. See, the trap you can easily fall into is the setting of individual performance over that of your team. This is counter-productive. Individuals that have their eyes set on that particular trophy start setting their own agenda and worry less about their teammates.

If you want to recognize high performers, make it a peer-recognition. Let the team members identify that one person who really made it happen, but don’t get carried away with the award. Make it a lunch, honoring the individual. Something relatively small in cost.

The real awards should be based around high performing teams.

Should team members provide estimates on tasks they have no or limited expertise with?

They should be involved in the discussion, even if they can’t provide a realistic estimate.

What metrics are generally used to assess a ScrumMaster’s performance?

I can’t speak to “generally used,” but I can tell you how I would do it as a 23-year manager. When you are trying to evaluate an employee’s performance (not something I recommend getting carried away with — performance evaluation should be part of the normal coaching, not part of the compensation package), I look at it in terms of the roles that the individual plays. For example, a ScrumMaster can be described as:

  1. ScrumMaster
  2. Scrum Team Member
  3. Software Engineer (or perhaps, Software Analyst, Systems Analyst, etc.)
  4. Individual – career aspirations, goals
  5. Employee

Now, what are this individual’s responsibilities with regard to each role?

  1. ScrumMaster – e.g., Keep the team fully functional and productive. Did she do that? How does the team see it?
  2. Scrum Team Member — e.g., Stay focused, get PBIs to DONE. Did she help with that? How? How does the team see it?
  3. Software Engineer – e.g., learn new techniques, stay technically current, etc. Did she do that? How? How does the team see it?
  4. Individual — e.g., is she trying to achieve a new role? Was there something specific she wanted to do this year? Did she do it? Was she effective?
  5. Employee – e.g., did she follow company policies? Is she a contributing member of the organization? How? How does the organization see it?

If you do what most organizations do and claim this is linked to compensation, you will likely garner excessive disappointment when compensation and salary grades do not truly line up with the level of the performance offered by the employee. Instead, we need to keep our focus simply on being the best that we can be and profiting from the organization’s success in whatever way the organization can realistically afford to do so. The organization that skimps on sharing their success will end up with people who aren’t interested in success, just employment. The organization that shares their success with their employees ends up with people banging on their doors trying to get in. These are two separate issues and should be kept that way.

How to project a final product picture to customer if the project requirements keep changing?

The question answers itself. If the requirements keep changing, the final product picture will change as well. The best you can do is base your picture on what you know and change it as the product requirements change. If your customer is the one suggesting the changes, that should be enough.

If a team is running well with no obstacles, does the ScrumMaster run out of things to do?

Unlikely. Even with everything is beautiful for the team, there’s still the organizational impediment list that needs to be addressed. Beyond that, there’s the question, “Can my team’s performance be raised? How?”