One Example of How to Use an Agile Tool with Balance

best agile toolbox
So many tools… which one to choose? Check out our great list of Agile Tools

Using an Agile or Scrum tool like many that we have in our list and those reviewed can be a challenge. We’ve helped many companies utilize their ALM’s well, and we’ve even helped even more remove the challenges that Agile tools can create… and let’s be honest, sometimes the problems they create.

I, for one, am tool agnostic, any client that’s worked with me will tell you the same. My adage when it comes to any type of tool usage is this:

The effectiveness of any tool is the discipline [enterprise-wide] to use it well.

Working with assertive people is always great, they even sometimes come up great ideas, like a colleague of mine, Jason did on their current implementation of Jira:

Current benefits of Jira

The tool provides a number of benefits if properly maintained

  • Mechanism for anyone, including customers, to quickly log issues or create stories
  • Easy integration with Confluence, the document repository
  • Easy integration with Tempo, the time tracking tool
  • Snapshot of stories and defects in the product backlog
  • Snapshot of stories and defects in the sprint backlog
  • Easy integration of combined backlogs
  • Snapshot of stories planned for a release
  • Email notifications when a ticket is created or updated
  • Quick dissemination across the team of this information, including offsite and extension to customers

Current challenges of Jira

Currently, the tool is over-engineered, resulting in abandonment

  • Too many options available; it is a Frankenstein of new fields and options built over a long period of time over many projects and types of projects
  • Workflows too complex (provide screen capture of the current WFs. They are spider webs)
  • WFs have unnecessary steps; people just ‘click along’ to close stories
  • Too much effort to move tasks and stories through the queue, resulting in waste
  • Workflows are built at the task level, requiring an unsustainable amount of discipline by every team member to keep it updated
  • Email subscriptions result in a torrent of email, so they get ignored or filtered out. Can’t differentiate between an important update versus a trivial comment
  • Too difficult to understand what’s ready/backlog, what’s WIP, and what’s done
  • Unless every team member has updated every task at all times, it’s not accurate
  • Few PMs/SMs use it for release planning; they either don’t have the time to maintain it or they don’t know how
  • Some resources rely on the tool to assign tasks, expecting the task to be done, and the task assignment to the assignee is lost in email
  • Using a tool to “assign” tasks inherently results in a push system, further resulting in pushback and missed commitments
  • Due dates are seldom applied, and when they are, they come and go. If something needs a due date, a team discussion is needed, NOT data entry into a tool that isn’t used
  • Therefore, predictably, teams have abandoned the tool. It takes ALL of these things in perfect synchronization for each piece to be meaningful. This model is unsustainable and not scalable
  • And therefore, Mgt. cannot point to a single project where the status is concise, simple, and clear to them what’s happening; it communicates little meaningful information for our managers unless a PM/SM is physically there to walk them through it. This defeats the purpose of having a web-based tool in the first place

Proposed solution

In short, use the tool to do a few things well, instead of everything for all projects

 

Things to change or stop doing:

  • Pull the existing workflows. The workflow should be one simple workflow:
    • Initial state: Open. It stays open and only open while assigned to the product backlog or the sprint backlog
    • Then you only have two options:
      • Means it’s done.
      • Means it’s rejected, duplicated, de-scoped, working as designed, etc. Keep these selections when cancelling.
    • That’s it. Anything more complicated than that and the tool will be abandoned
  • Tasks and subtasks no longer maintained in Jira. These are for the team to manage and should be done on a physical board
  • Stop relying on Jira to communicate due dates. If something is urgent and a due date needs to be committed, a team discussion should take place to understand the impact to the current work queue and negotiate what is deferred in its place
  • Stop relying on Jira to push tasks through a queue. Tasks should be pulled by the team, not pushed onto individuals

 

Things to keep doing

  • Open new defects and stories
  • Close or cancel defects and stories
  • Maintain product backlog; use the rapid boards to move stories into sprints
  • Track stories to epics
  • Track releases and release dates
  • Assign stories and epics to releases
  • Link stories as-needed to Confluence
  • Maintain relationship with Tempo
  • Assign an onsite resource to update the physical board for offsite resources; send photos of board(s) to offsite team members

Atlanta ScrumMaster Training – Action & Influence Growing the Atlanta Market

In Atlanta, GA news:

Action & influence, Inc. announced today that they are hosting more Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Product Owner (CSPO) courses in Atlanta due to increasing demand. As the only company in Georgia to have a local Certified Scrum Trainer, Peter Saddington, they want to bring even more value to the Agile community and local Atlanta companies who want to leverage Agile or Scrum to bring quicker development value to their software and services. Having a local CST gives Georgia companies a great advantage, as their employees can attend local courses without incurring the costs associated with travel. Peter Saddington is one of the 140 Certified Scrum Trainers in the world and about half of them reside in the United States. Peter Saddington is the first CST to reside in the state of Georgia. Saddington says, “Our local clients who are looking towards Agile and Scrum have greatly enjoyed having a local trainer who can service their needs without flying in another trainer from out of state. Most of our clients in Atlanta have private courses for their entire development teams and organization.”

You can quickly find local Atlanta Certified ScrumMaster classes, http://atlantascrummaster2013.eventbrite.com/and sign up as an individual, team, or company.

According to one of Action & Influence’s students, Mike Rucker, who recently took a Certified ScrumMaster course in Atlanta said, “I was very pleased to find a local group that offered such a wide choice in class days and times. It was very easy to find a class that fit within an already busy schedule.”

Other testimonials of Action & Influence, Inc. classes:

“Peter’s mastery of the subject matter coupled with his excellent presentation and communication skills made for an outstanding learning experience.” – Jim Olwine from Atlanta

“Peter REALLY did change my life. He provided such great instruction on Scrum and the duties of a ScrumMaster. He gave lots of clarity on my career direction. Great job!” – Aletha Hill from Atlanta

“VERY INSPIRING. [Peter Saddington] is one of the best instructors I have ever seen in my life.” – Parveen Yadav from Atlanta

“I can honestly say that the ScrumMaster class has changed my view on software development, and breathed welcome fresh air into some tired sails. I am genuinely looking forward to the second half of my career now, with hopes to embody in my work all that Peter laid out in the class and the skill set of a true servant leader in the technical world.” – Mike Rucker from Atlanta

[HT: PRWeb]

[Agile Tool Review]: Conferencing calling made easy by free online tool – Speek!

Interested to know about an easy to use, No Bridge/PIN requiring conference call tool? Check out Speek[.com]!
Note: Currently they only support callers within USA.

“..there HAS to be an easy way!..”

One of the biggest challanges of being a volunteer lead on distributed virtual teams is – Communication. With various teams I volunteer with, keeping up with the calendar, conference bridges and pins is a tough task. I’ve sometimes joined the meetings late due to fiddling with the “smart phone” or used incorrect numbers..In my quest to find a FREE simple option, Somehow, I found out about http://www.speek.com/

How it works?

Speek team has pretty good video, audio help to get us started. I would recommend starting here:

  1. Features/Ad
  2. How to Register your Speek Link
  3. How to join a Speek call

In addition here are few self explanatory screen shots for your reference:

Speek-LandingPage

Speek-Signup

Speek-JoinACall

Speek-JoinACall2

 

Dashboard & Bridge Info:

Speek-Dashboard

Speek-BridgeInfo

Speek-OnACall

My Experience:

I’ve had calls with our PMI Atlanta volunteer team, with few agile coaches, and we all found it:

  • very easy to navigate,
  • intuitive,
  • Call quality was clear and
  • Call Summary email after the end of call!

What can make it BETTER:

  1. If Speek could add a Screen/Desktop share utility in addition to file share and
  2. I know they already must be working on this, but making it GLOBAL!

What do agilescout readers use to keep in touch with your (distributed) teams? Were you aware of Speek before reading here? Let us know.

Agile Designers – Marketplace for Awesome

agile-designers-homepage

 

Are you an Agile Designer? Or just a designer looking for great resources? This webbie came up on our radar and so far I like what I’ve seen.

Now, sharing sites are a dime a dozen these days, this is nothing new. What I do like is that designers register, drop web pages or things of interest for others and they get ‘accepted’ by the community as valuable. Crowdsourcing at it’s best.

Don’t get it twisted though, this isn’t a FREE DESIGN TEMPLATE webpage. It’s more on the workflow, the process… helping a designer become more agile… or rather, able to be productive.

Worth a look.

AgileDesigners.com

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

PMI-PMBOKv5

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!

The Agile Pocket Guide – Peter Saddington – Now on Amazon for Pre-Order!

Super excited that my next book: The Agile Pocket Guide is now up on Amazon.com for pre-order!

It’s been a long road since I first got rejected by many publishers and finally self-published and then grabbed Wiley’s attention!

#win

Business Optimization and Human Potential

We are often blind.

As Agile Coaches, consultants, and organizational improvers, we strive to help teams and businesses alike improve their performance, output, and even culture.

The problem is… that we often come into a team or business blind, not understanding the full context of each team and each individual who makes up that team.

This is a problem.

To be the most effective we need to understand how people operate. We need to understand how they work collectively, as a group, as a team, and as individuals. The quicker we can assess and understand the contextual culture of our clients and teams, we are left to empirically deduce assumptions that most often are half-truths.

As we jump into consulting or coaching with any client, it would be great to know their cultural context, how people are behaving, and even how to engage with them best.

Easier said than done, until TeamScience™ dropped on the scene.

TeamScience™ – Business Optimization and Human Potential

Continue reading “Business Optimization and Human Potential”