Tag Archives: agile

Agile Book – Marketing

Our Agile textbook is just weeks away from being a real, tangible thing and it is so exciting.  Continuing with our blog series with excerpts from the book, this one comes from the final chapter titled Agile Beyond IT.  One might wonder why an Agile textbook marketingwould dedicate a whole chapter to marketing products developed by Agile teams or even how Agile has been deployed in Marketing and other corporate departments.  My co-author, Sondra Ashmore and I believe that it is important to remember that a product is not successful because it was created by an Agile team.  Successful products have to be launched correctly too and that can be an equally significant challenge.  Here are the learning objectives from this chapter as well as an excerpt on marketing with agility.

 Learning Objectives

  • Learn how the Agile values apply to bringing products to market, beyond the development efforts
  • Understand ways to systematically collaborate with the marketplace through discovery and validation
  • Explore the changing dynamics for marketing of products with the proliferation of new channels and the complexities of brand management with social media
  • Review how wireframes and prototypes can be used in the marketplace to inform priorities for Agile software development teams
  • Learn how to be Agile when launching products by managing features, limiting the initial audience, and pursuing continuous enhancements
  • Take the Agile concepts beyond IT and product development and see how other corporate organizations can benefit from Agile values and principles
  • Discover how Marketing has taken Agile to a whole new level of discipline by creating their own manifesto

Marketing with Agility

There are a number of ways to effectively market products built with Agile development teams. Some Agile purists are uncomfortable committing dates and features to the marketplace, but in most industries, it is not optional: Existing customers and late-stage prospects demand to know when and how the product will evolve. We outline several ways to balance these two sides.

Agile Book – Tracking

One of the amazing things about co-authoring this Agile textbook (Introduction to Agile Methods) with Sondra Ashmore has been the opportunity to learn new things and research other methodologies.  For our excerpt from Chapter 8, Tracking and Reporting, I had the opportunity to research Feature Driven Development (FDD) and a great concept called Parking Lots.  Here are the Learning Objectives for this chapter and more on FDD Parking Lots.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand Kanban, its effectiveness, and when it is used
  • Learn the definition of work in progress (WIP) limits and how they can identify bottlenecks in processes
  • Explore different tracking mechanisms used in XP, Scrum, Lean, DSDM, and Crystal
  • Understand burn charts, both burn-up for release management and burn-down for sprint tracking
  • Examine feature-driven development (FDD) parking lots and how they assist in tracking large and complex projects
  • Learn the different strategies for tracking quality through an iteration
  • Understand the importance of meetings in tracking progress and course correcting
  • Learn the purpose and desired outcome for each meeting—the daily stand-up, the Sprint review, and the retrospective
  • Consider the metrics for measuring the success of Agile projects

 

Feature-Driven Development (FDD) Parking Lots

FDD incorporates an excellent way to track progress on larger projects where many activities are contributing to a cohesive whole. For our Cayman Design project, we want to create and sell weather-related calendars to customers; this is a large departure from the other features in our weather app because we have to consider inventory, shipping, and payment details. An example of an FDD parking lot might look like what is shown in Figure 8.7.

FDD2

 

 

 

 

 

 

This tells us that the feature “Collect Customer Information” consists of seven stories totaling 32 points. At this moment, we are 75% complete, and the feature is needed by August 2014. The color on the story can indicate its health, this particular story being yellow, meaning it is in jeopardy. Although this is an interesting depiction of information, it is not necessarily more valuable than any of the other Agile tools we have discussed—that is, until you add many other components, and then the picture painted by the FDD parking lot is incredibly useful (see Figure 8.8).

Agile Book – Technical Debt

In the next edition of this blog series highlighting excerpts from our upcoming book, we will tackle the tricky subject of Technical Debt.  To be honest, I had a hard time choosing a single topic from this chapter because there are so many great topics covered – debt2Definition of Done, Planning Poker, Value Stream Mapping, the Kano Model, Velocity, the XP Planning Game – and much more in this chapter on Grooming and Planning.  And it includes an interview with none other than Mike Cohn!  If this post, or any of the previous ones on Roles or Requirements or our guest blog from co-author Sondra Ashmore inspire you to want to purchase the book, please visit Amazon and search on Introduction to Agile Methods.

Back to Planning and Grooming, here are the Learning Objectives for the chapter.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the elements of a product backlog and what traits lead to the strongest deliverables
  • Dive into prioritization and learn different methods for understanding what is the most important feature or item to work on
  • Explore estimation and the different practices and measures that are used today
  • Understand story points and planning poker as ways to discern the level of effort and complexity of the user stories/requirements
  • Learn the other inputs that affect the planning process, such as team velocity, definition of “done,” technical debt, and bugs/defects
  • Evaluate Sprint planning and the XP planning game to learn how commitments are made and work is planned
  • See how maintenance work can be incorporated into Agile teams
  • Review the triple constraints model and how it is handled within the Agile framework

Agile Book – Requirements

This is the second in a series of blogs about our upcoming textbook called Introduction to Agile Methods that I have written with Sondra Ashmore.  The first blog spotlighted Roles and our second post was a guest blog by Sondra on Agile in Academics.  I hope these blogs inspire you to want to read the whole book!  Pre-orders are available on Amazon right now – just search Introduction to Agile Methods by Sondra Ashmore and Kristin Runyan. The chapter spotlight for this post concerns Requirements and how they Userstoryare approached very differently in Agile, as opposed to Waterfall.  Within Agile, the terms around requirements include User Stories, Epics, Acceptance Criteria, Personas, Release Management and much more.  The excerpt that I have chosen to share here addresses a particularly challenging aspect of managing requirements and priorities – Customer Specific Code Requests.  First, here are the learning objectives for the chapter.

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize the differences between Agile and Waterfall with regard to requirements gathering and documentation
  • Understand the format used within Scrum for user stories, including epics and acceptance criteria
  • Explore several examples of how user stories are broken down from epics to child user stories and how acceptance criteria add important details to the story
  • Learn how the other methodologies differ from Scrum in their terminology and practices
  • Examine how requirements can be enhanced by using personas or engaging User Experience (UX) designers to better understand potential system users
  • Understand how user stories and Agile development efforts map into a marketplace driven by consumer demands and customer-specific development requests
  • Value the importance of communication and transparency when it comes to requirement specifications and priorities
  • Explore Lean software development and the Lean start-up concepts and how they influence the product development process

Agile in Academics – Guest Blog

Please enjoy this guest book from my co-author, Sondra Ashmore.

I have spent my career working in IT for Fortune 500 companies, so it is fair to say that my career has followed a corporate path rather than an academic one. I am happy with my choice, but there has always been a part of me that is fascinated by higher education. I dabble in the academic world by teaching an occasional course, speaking at conferences, writing journal articles and soon publishing a textbook about Agile software development methods with Kristin Runyan. I love to learn, contribute to the knowledge base and help people acquire the skills they need to achieve their goals.

Sondra_Ashmore_headshot_v2In 2009, I returned to school to finish my doctorate. I had been practicing Agile methods at work for a couple years and assumed there would be an Agile course offered at my university. I was surprised to learn that most of my (very technical) professors had scarcely heard of Agile and the thought of teaching an Agile course was not on their radar. I decided to do my dissertation research on Agile methods due to the limited research on the topic. My research encouraged me to network with many local Agile enthusiasts. They complained that there was not a pipeline of students at any of the local universities who even knew the basics of Agile requiring them to do extensive training with all of their new hires. They were desperate to have an Agile methods course taught and encouraged me to sell the idea of an Agile course to my university. I presented the idea to my university and was subsequently recruited to teach because I was the only one they could think of that had any expertise or experience with Agile.

Agile Book – Roles

We are getting closer to the publication of the Agile textbook that I have co-authored with Sondra Ashmore.  It is such an exciting time for us and I want to use this blog series to highlight chapters from the book.  I hope you enjoy this so much that you want to order the book.  Pre-orders are available on Amazon right now – just search Introduction to Agile Methods by Sondra Ashmore and Kristin Runyan.

One of the chapters that I was responsible for addresses the roles within Agile and specifically Scrum teams.  Here are the chapter learning objectives as well as an excerpt from the section about Product Owners, something I am very passionate about.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the roles in Scrum with their specific responsibilities—product owner, Scrum master, and team
  • Identify the attributes and personality types that are most successful in the various roles
  • Learn the Agile definitions of “chickens” and “pigs”
  • See how extended team members interact with the team
  • Compare and contrast the roles in Scrum and the other methodologies
  • Walk through practical examples of how the roles are filled in different-sized organizations

Product Ownership – Breadth

Another nuance of the product owner role is the breadth of his or her ownership. Does one product owner manage multiple products? Or is one product so big that it requires multiple product owners? Both of these situations are common in the workplace where teams are thin and expectations are high.

To examine the first instance, what are the advantages and disadvantages of having one product owner responsible for multiple products? The biggest risk factor is time and attention. Can the product owner devote adequate time to every product that he or she is responsible for? Does this person have the necessary depth of understanding to truly collaborate with IT on the best solutions? It is a risk, but certainly one that can be overcome.

In the instance where the product is large enough to have multiple product owners, there is a chance that the priorities will not Manyto1align. Related to the previous reference of business value, if one product owner wants to expand to new cities to attract new users but another product owner places top priority on improving the processing speed, then you can run into conflicts. However, one of the core tenets of Agile is collaboration, which includes collaboration between product owners. Product owners need to be in communication with each other to clearly articulate the best plan for all groups—knowing that at any given time, one group’s needs will take precedence over another’s.

Even if you have a single product owner for every product, that does not mean that things are easy. Between systems there are interactions, and to create a new feature or make a modification, the product owner may need to consider dependencies.

Building a Product Owner – Existing Backlog

Product Owners – like great products – must be developed.  While some skills are innate, others must be learned and organizations tend to throw new Product Owners into the mix without adequate information. In this blog series, we have explored new product owners who are assigned to new products and those owning a system migration.  Now we are going to explore a new product owner who takes over an existing product with a robust product backlog.  In some respects, one might think this is the easiest of the three scenarios but it comes with its own set of challenges.  Here are some tips for how to get started.

1. Get to know your customers

The first step to get your arms around an existing backlog is to understand your current customers.  To do this, you need both

Backlog in Jira Agile

Backlog in Jira Agile

qualitative and quantitative information.  Data is always your friend.  How many customers do you have?  Are they profitable?  Are they the ideal customers that you want to attract?  Once you understand the numbers, now you need to actually talk to customers.  Schedule interviews with key customers – both happy ones and those that are frustrated.  Use your strong product management skills by asking open ended questions.  My favorite is “What keeps you up at night?”  Let your customers talk or complaint or suggest – wherever the conversation goes can be valuable.  Knowing who is buying your product is very important.

Building a Product Owner – New Product

Many of the complaints that I hear often about Agile implementations concern the product owner.  Either the business is not engaged appropriately, or the product owner is indecisive or unavailable, or the quality of the requirements/user stories is poor. Whatever the situation, the product owner is often “at fault.”

person4Instead of lamenting why we do not have good product owners, I would like to shift our thinking to: How can we build a Product Owner?  These are challenging jobs and often the people put in them have little background on what is expected of them.  This is the first in a series of three blogs to help us build better product owners, which will lead to better products.  First, let’s examine a new product offering.  Where would a new product owner start?

For this effort, I recommend a three step process and I have to give credit to David Hussman who provided some of the inspiration for this topic.

1. Create personas

Who is going to use this new product?  Who is your buyer?  Will you have power users and casual users?  Do you need to consider administrative users?

Personas first came into the conversation with Alan Cooper’s book “The Inmates are Running the Asylum” in 1999.  Personas are fictitious people who are going to use the system so the Product Owner can think about user interactions and how best to optimize the experience.  Let’s map out a few personas.

Networking and Blogging – Is it worth it?

Have you ever worked on something only to wonder “is this worth the effort?” “Does it matter at all?”  “Does anyone care?”  I know I have – and it relates in part to these blogs.  In 2013, I set a goal that I was going to write 52 blogs – one per week.  If you have ever tried to maintain a blog site, you know that is an ambitious goal.  But I was committed so even when I would have rather been reading a book or walking the dog, I wrote blogs.  And if I am honest, it did give me a sense of accomplishment when I achieved the goal.

Blogs

As I worked on my 52 blogs, most were about three subjects that I am deeply passionate about: (1) Product Management, (2) Agileflat orb and (3) Leadership.  I have  a good amount of practical experience, I have taken awesome training classes and I have devoted time reading and studying on these subjects, so I hope that I have something useful to share.

Agile in 100 words

Introducing Agile into your software development projects, or other organizations in your company or into your life has produced
wonderful, empowering results for many people – myself included.  I often get asked “What is Agile, in simple terms?”  Here is my attempt to boil it down to 100 words which will hopefully resonate for everyone, regardless of your background.

Agile is an approach to problem solving.  We tackle big projects by breaking them down into small, deliverable chunks.  After each chunk is completed, we inspect it and adjust based on what we learn.  We prioritize each chunk based on its value, to ensure we work on the most important stuff first. We work as a team where smart people get together face-to-face to brainstorm solutions to complex problems.  We succeed as a team and measure our progress to immediately address any roadblocks.  We strive to deliver more chunks with higher quality and clear value on a frequent, sustainable basis.

100Cloud

What do you think?  What is missing?  Does that make sense to people who aren’t part of this movement?  I would love to hear what you think.

 

 

 

To learn more, please reference the book Change, Inc.: An Agile Fable of Transformation available on www.amazon.com.