The Friend Disclosure Agreement (FriendDA) – Love it.

notfriendsI believe that any ‘independent consultant’ or type of individual is an entreprenuer. It takes guts, gumption, and desire to go off on your own and build your own brand and take on all the risk. It’s scary and rewarding at the same time. Like driving 140+mph on a motorcycle. It’s scary but thrilling at the same time (not that I’ve ever done that…).

Entrepreneurs also have great ideas… good entrepreneurs share those ideas with others to get feedback. Sometimes though, you need a bit of a Non Disclosure Agreement to keep things kosher. How about a ‘lite’ version?

Found one. – Love it. Perfect for using when you have an idea to share with others. Some highlights (italics mine) below:


This agreement is entered into this ___ day of ___ 20__ by and between _____________ (hereinafter “The Advisor”) and _____________ (hereinafter “The Keeper of the Idea” or “I”) regarding information The Keeper of The Idea is choosing to share with The Advisor (hereinafter “The Idea”).

WHEREAS I possess a bright idea that I am choosing to disclose to you, The Advisor, with the mutual understanding that you are my friend and that you will not screw me.

Manners of screwing include, but are not limited to:

  1. Adapting some or all of The Idea for your own purposes.
  2. Choosing to share some or all of The Idea with those who are not bound to this agreement.
  3. Failing to do your best to protect The Idea.

This is a “warm blanket” agreement with which, by requesting your agreement to it, I am helping myself sleep at night by placing a small amount of formality on the sharing of The Idea. I believe The Idea will only improve as a result of having solicited your honest and clear feedback.


The term of this agreement shall continue until The Idea is no longer confidential.


This agreement has absolutely no legal binding. However, upon breach or violation of the agreement, I will feel free to do any of the following:

  1. Curse you under my breath.
  2. Publicly disclose the manner of your screw-i-tude.
  3. Write about your transgressions in ALL CAPS.
  4. No longer consider you a person with whom I can share my ideas.


Sharing of some or all of The Idea with third parties may occur provided that you have cleared this with me and the third parties agree to the principles of the FriendDA.


Termination of this FriendDA can be executed by either party, but don’t be a douche.

You are acknowledging and agreeing to this disclosure by reading it. If you find any part of this agreement uncomfortable or confusing, don’t sweat it. We’ll talk about something else.


VersionOne Launches Full Suite of Agile Visualizations in Winter Release

This is pretty interesting stuff. See the video below:

Easy Visualizations Streamline Problem Identification and Collaboration

ATLANTA – January 22, 2013VersionOne, recognized by agile practitioners as the leader in agile project management tools, today launched a comprehensive suite of agile visualizations in its Winter 2013 product release focused on enabling teams to more easily identify problems and collaborate.

“Visualization is becoming increasingly important in better understanding complex relationships.  In the context of agile software development, our suite of visualizations can really help teams understand rapidly changing relationships and dependencies occurring during the software development lifecycle.  With our Winter 2013 release, we’ve taken the next major step in simplifying project collaboration and making sure everyone on the team understands the impact their work is having on the overall program goals,” said Robert Holler, president and CEO of VersionOne. “This makes it much easier for teams to achieve their goals in a more holistic manner.”

VersionOne’s new visualizations help users identify impediments in their agile processes. They make it easier for users to understand and manage complex work item relationships and dependencies. Project dependency diagrams help team members see schedule anomalies, helping them to sequence work within a release. Additional improvements for Enterprise Edition include enhanced cross-project visibility for epics and streamlined epic breakdown, simplifying agile portfolio and program management.

For more information about the Winter 2013 product release, visit here.

Agile 2013 Reading – Agile Estimation at It’s Best


Agile Estimation Like My 2013 Reading Project

I have over 20 books that I need to read (re-read) this year… and I just bought about 7 more (in the mail) that will be hitting my doorstep in the next week. Every year I try to read at least 2 books per month. This year, due to my backlog, I pretty much have my entire reading backlog ready for 2013. While I was putting my book-stack together, something occurred to me… how all this reading… while a good plan… might not get done. And, according to previous experience and history, often it’s not. Sounds like a “failed project” correct? You’re absolutely right. Let’s break it down for a second.

Product Backlog

  • 28 or so books
  • All different sizes and lengths
  • Different material… but some can be grouped into a “theme”
  • The product backlog will change over time (as I add books or even remove book priorities)

Product Goal

  • To complete my total reading of at least 24 books (2 per month) for the year
  • While the goal is set, I know that priorities will change

Planning and Estimation

Let’s be honest for a moment here:

  • I’ve read about 7 of the 28 books or so but I haven’t “recorded” how long it took me to read them (heads down reading)
  • The other books, I have no idea how long it’ll take, with interruptions, flights to catch, quiet hotel nights, etc, etc.
  • I know I need to move towards the goal, but since the majority of the “work” (reading), I’ve never done before, it would be foolish to “estimate” how long it’ll take for each unit (book) of work.
  • I know that I need to just execute. Learn, see how long a book takes, affinity estimate, or compare against other books, inspect, adapt, and review towards the total completion goal.

I know that only through the act of EXECUTION and LEARNING will I truly know or understand my “capacity” for work and ability to complete the work “on time.”

We’re terrible at estimation. You do not “know” because you have never done.

Let me repeat that:

“You do not know (the estimate of anything), because you have not done it (before).”

Consider the massive implications on your work and business:

  1. The business asks you up front for estimates on work you’ve never done before.
  2. You take a guess and hope for the best.

What a terrible existence to have!

We cover this a lot in our workshops and classes, but the main point is: We need to have opportunities to execute, learn, and grow. Only through experience will we be able to better give estimates. Find opportunities to execute, try, and learn. If your company doesn’t allow for experimentation, you will never have innovation.

Have a great kaizen 2013 my friends! Learn learn learn!


Project Management Institute (PMI) PMBOK Guide – Fifth edition is now available!


Project Management Institute’s – Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) Guide (Fifth edition) is now available! It’s an exciting an MUCH awaited news for (many) PMI volunteers who volunteered and worked hard on completing this!

I have been a part of this significant project since August 2010. I worked with a distributed, dedicated, talented team of project management practitioners from across the globe as a Content committee member. It’s an inexplicable experience to see your name listed in this Guide referred by worldwide practitioners and PMP aspirants. Thank you PMI and my amazing team for the support and this awesome chance!

The challenges that our team faced were tough but every team member was committed and made sure our work timeline was never impacted and delivered high quality output. There were multiple such teams working in parallel, and leads of those teams synchronizing all the work! I can’t imagine the number of stories rest of the volunteers must have to share.

To everyone who helped create this Guide and volunteered your expertise, time and probably sometimes sacrificed personal time – I personally thank you for your valuable contribution. If you stumble upon this post and have contributed, please share your story, views and journey.

If you have friends, colleagues, bosses  – please spread the word around. (PMI members might already be aware about this). But, surprisingly I found MANY in the community who talk to me regarding PMP certification prep unaware about this. Project Management Professional OR PMP (R) is a world wide respected credential which is not restricted to JUST software development, but is common for non-IT fields and jobs – e.g.: Construction, Oil and Gas, Finance, Non-profits and many other domains.

If you are affiliated to a PMI chapter, make your chapter operations team and members cognizant about it. If you are a PMI-REP (Registered Education Provider), a trainer, consultant, blogger or simply a project management practitioner – this change affects you.

Share the news – by word of mouth, through emails, through twitter, Facebook – whatever media you can. Just help make the people making choice regarding project management as profession be aware about this change.

Check the Newly Updated Standards Availability page on PMI site, specifically:  “Getting Ready for the Exam?” section with Study Recommendation and Updated Exam Schedule sections!

Why Your Sales Team Doesn’t Use Marketing Automation Leads from the Marketing Team


Marketing automation software, such as Marketo and Pardot, have simplified tracking repeat web visitors, lead scoring and lead nurturing with email drip campaigns. While tracking and nurturing web visitors until they have enough information to become viable sales leads is easier, one problem remains. Without sales team and marketing team coordination, the type of leads delivered may not meet the sales team’s needs.

Last week I spoke with a field sales executive for an Atlanta software company, at an anonymous coffee shop. Sales Executive X has sold to major clients and he’s led teams of sales people. He relates that, “There are often times when the marketing team launches marketing initiatives. They send out materials to clients. Sales people then realize they’ve never heard of a marketing announcement, when clients start asking them questions that they’re not prepared to answer. Sometimes there is a disconnect between marketing and sales department within the same company”.

The obvious cure for these miscommunications is for the marketing team leaders and sales team leaders to communicate with each other on a quarterly or even monthly basis. In sales organizations where the salespeople are often under pressure to run as hard to land a $2,500 client as a $250,000 client, salespeople often have no time to research what the marketing department is currently promoting to potential customers. The marketing team can solve this problem by updating the sales team with every new issue of collateral or each new online initiative.

Marketing action is often not helping sales unless they are communicating with each other to set priorities. It is important for salespeople to be in touch with the product managers and research and development team. Occasionally, leaders will bring the sales team and marketing team together for discussion, but the best result comes from meeting on a regular time table.

For example, one company that Sales Executive X worked with decided to reward salespeople who shared customer insights with the marketing department with a $500 incentive. This initiative was mentioned once in 2004 and never mentioned again.

How much better would it be to have these meetings and solicit customer insights on a quarterly basis. But X cautions that, “There is a real danger that these meetings can turn into bitch sessions on past occasions where marketing and sales did not communicate”. It’s better if both teams assume that the other team has positive intentions. The most productive approach will be to use a questioning method to learn about problem points and analyze why they are happening.

There’s is tremendous value in bringing understanding between sales and marketing teams. Sales Executive X insisted that, “If there is a salesperson who consistently provides innovative product suggestions to the marketing and product design team, perhaps that person would serve a greater good in the organization being the liaison between customers and product design and marketing”.

By the same token, marketing teams can regularly update sales teams right before they launch a new marketing campaign. The marketing team can take an active role in approaching the sales team to learn the true criteria for a desirable sales lead. Often, sales calls can be more fruitful if the marketing team can send new leads with detailed information about the customer and their readiness to buy. You can make a huge difference in your organization by bridging this information gap.

When was the last time that your sales team landed a lead from the marketing process? Does your marketing team understand the sort of customers that your field sales people really want and need? Share your stories with us.

Dreaming in Code – 14 Year Old Prodigy Programmer Engineer

Sometimes I’m just amazed at the human mind. The human capacity. Human power. Human potential.

As someone whose roots are development and programming, I can really appreciate Santiago.

I’ll be following this kid… and look forward to celebrating his success! An inspiration for sure!

Abandoned Projects Make Me Sad – Time for Agile!


Sit down, stay awhile. Let me tell you a story. 

Time and time again I sit down with clients, and I get to be in an Agile counselor position. Listening to a sob story over drinks and gruel of how it’s “Time to go Agile” after years of failing. Sometimes I take notes (if I have my handy pad), sometimes I write down stuff on whatever I can get my hand on.

Here you have a client… after spending 2 years and millions of dollars… the CIO called it quits… and made an executive decision right before new years… to cancel the project.


How do you count the cost? I might just make you sad. I’m sad… but not for long. It’s time for Agile. It’s go time.

User Stories – Tackling team commitment through “leftovers”

Happy New Year @gile$cout readers!

Be it teams new to Scrum or ones that have been practicing scrum for a while, one of the common problems they face is: User stories carrying over multiple time boxes (sprints/iterations). The team simply can NOT finish the story and it drags on..and on..sprint after sprint.

As a member of ever growing agile community, I am subscribed to many discussion groups. Recently, one such discussion Can’t get to done, roll-over every sprint on Scrum Alliance Google Group caught my attention.


The origin of the problem can be at many places like: Ambiguous requirement(s)/stories, Stories not sliced enough, Business owner/PO availability, Technical road block, Team member availability etc. One of the common cause is “over commitment”.  I’d like to share my recent experience about this specific problem and how I was able to address it.

Setting: Most of the team members were new to scrum/agile. 3 Sprints into the product development, our team was continuously moving more than a couple of user stories from sprint to sprint. Apart from the obvious problem of inexperience with user story creation and splitting, there was a zest in team which was leading to over commitment.

Having failed to try and discuss that problem in retrospectives, I had to wait for around 3 sprints to validate my assumption. (Yes, we progressed into creating better stories and got a little better at slicing them). After 3 sprints, I decided to try something different – I created a new backlog item “Spillover” stories for the next sprint. Since Thanksgiving was approaching people started talking about Turkey dinners and thus the “leftover” turkey sandwiches and all sorts of leftover recipe discussions were making rounds in office and internet. That inspired me to use the term “Leftover” stories.

At every daily standup, we would discuss about the “Leftovers”. And as it happens in every household, there came a day when the team got bored with leftovers. One of our developers broke the silence saying, “..I don’t like the term leftover/spillover you are using..”. The developer was concerned that the task board was not doing justice to the status of work completed in that story. That was the opportunity, I was waiting for.

We agreed to finish the standup and then discuss the issue. With everyone from the team present there, we looked at the stories, work history, capacity of every team member and turned the discussion into a retrospective. Everyone agreed that we had gotten better at describing the user stories, creating supporting documents/design/User interface. The team then realized given the time box, we were biting more than we can chew. For the first 3 iterations, we all were ignoring the fact as the team was forming, storming. It WAS a team commitment (or “lack of” to say NO to the product owner) issue.

This experience touched many aspects of the team’s operation, but mainly addressed the commitment issues. We do have some scrum certified team members but until we practice, fail, inspect-adapt and repeat the cycle, we are not being true to agile values and principles. It was a wonderful experience for me and the team and we all have made adjustments since then.

Many other scrum/agile experts offered excellent advice/response to that thread on Scrum Alliance Google group. I shared this story very briefly. I was delighted to see @RonJeffries responding to my response on the group as “Nice!” Made my day! [blackbirdpie url=”″]

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Thanks to @WoodyZuill for encouraging me to create this post out of a twitter conversation! [blackbirdpie url=”″]

If it helps, here are some of my User Story related valuable reads. I know it’s time to update that list! I am eager to hear your comments and stories.

Use Social Marketing and Search to Promote Your Business


Social Marketing and Search for Business.

Using Social Media and Search Marketing for Your Business
Search Marketer Ed Hill Interviews Joe Koufman on Using Social Media and Search Marketing
First, let’s examine how Google has adapted to the rising value of social media.
We know that social media brings three main benefits to your business:
Your business exposure and branding will increase.
Social media platforms will become a new source of added web traffic to your business web site. Your analytics may show up to 10% of your web traffic coming from social sites.
The marketing insights you gain from social listening and answering customer service questions are powerful. Here’s your chance to improve your products and correct problem that are hurting your brand image.
As early as 2007 Google began to include blogs on the first page of search results, this was the first step in bringing social media into search results.
The converging of social and search accelerated. Google started adding Real Time Social Media to Search Results. This means that if you add a blog post, tweet or news story to the web, it can show up in Google search within 15 to 20 minutes.
Social media greatly increased the volume of new information coming into the web. To keep up, the Google Caffeine update increased the speed of indexing. Now new blog posts, social posts and news items would be indexed more quickly to guarantee that your search queries will get fresh results.
The Google Plus one button was launched followed by the Google Plus social network. This helped solve a major problem in search. Before social media, you never knew if a search result would be a cleverly optimized page or a high quality page that was the real answer to your search question. By having people like and PLUS ONE items, the search engines could now decide the best search results based partly on people’s votes.
Google Freshness update increases volume of recent news and trending social results in search results
Social media listening and community building is time consuming. For the 48% of business with sales from social media, social media has proved it’s worth. You may not get direct sales like you do from pay per click or SEO landing pages, but social media does help your branding, customer service and collaboration with customers.
If 57% of businesses in the survey acquired customers through blogging, you must build a business blog with posts 3-5 days a week. Your business blog can also serve as a hub for all of your social media content.
Now, let’s take a closer look at why social media is valuable to you as a marketer.
If 40-48% of businesses are getting sales from social media, the next question is: Do your customers favor certain blogs or web discussion forums? Do they just post on major social media platforms, like Facebook or do they hang out on specialized boards on Pinterest? Find out where your customers post messages, before investing the time and effort to build your social community.
When 40% of viewers purchase after seeing a video, you need two things. It just makes sense to place product demonstration videos on your web site and customer-focused, problem solving videos on social media platforms.
The social web allows users to widely share reviews of bad products. If you’re consistently getting quality complaints, the best fix is to correct your products or service. When 68% of users write product reviews, good quality products will also be rewarded in the search engines. Make it easy for customers to write product reviews on your ecommerce site. The benefits can be long lasting.
When 50% of customers are combining social and search while researching products, your business MUST be visible in both social and search. Combine a good SEO presence on the web, plus social community building so users will share your content and recommend your products to others.
I spoke with Joe Koufman SVP of Sales at Engauge Digital to find out how social builds the value of search
JOE KOUFMAN: If you think about what the search engines are trying try to accomplish, they’re trying to answer the question that you have. You go to the search engines with a question, you ask the question, and Google or Bing is trying to answer that question that you’ve posed. People are also going to social to ask questions and have those questions answered.
If I’m trying to consider what my next digital camera purchase might be or cell phone or car, often I’ll go to my social network and ask them the question. And then, who do you trust more, the company giving you the answer about why their car is the best or your friends who have had experience with that same car manufacturer?
So, to me social is a way that you can use a lot of different tools, but from a customer service standpoint answering one customer’s question through social and then having that answer indexed through search, you may be answering thousands of other people’s questions. From a product development standpoint, listening, social listening and trying to hear about what people are talking about your product or your category and then taking that and developing products that meet their needs.
Again with search, you can get scale, you can get mass. So, posting one tweet, posting one video on Youtube, posting on info graphic that you put on Pintrest or on Flicker or somewhere else. You have the ability now to disseminate that content so that it can be found by a larger, more diverse set of people who are potential consumers, who can give you ideas about the new products, who could potentially purchase your products, who can help come to your defense if you’re having a PR crisis of some kind.
So to me, the mix of social and search is really powerful because it brings scale to a conversation that you’re having in social.
Please share this video with your friends on Twitter.