Video – Introduction to Scrum

A colleague of mine, Michael James, just posted his Introduction to Scrum video on YouTube I think is the right length and depth for an overview – it’s not so short as to be trite (or worse, incorrect), but it’s not an exhaustive examination of Scrum either. This video is good prep for people who are planning to enter a CSM class and don’t want to go in cold. It is also good for stakeholders around the company who want an understanding of Scrum so that they can work better with their development teams.

I’d be very interested in hearing your views of this video.

The complete series is also available, providing most of the information you need to pass the Certified Scrum Master or Professional Scrum Master exams:

  1. Introduction to Scrum
  2. Backlog Refinement (Grooming) Meeting
  3. Sprint Planning Meeting
  4. Daily Scrum (standup) Meeting
  5. Sprint Review Meeting
  6. Sprint Retrospective Meeting

Here’s a lower-quality version of the first one:


Posted under Scrum, Scrum Coaching, Scrum training

This post was written by admin on December 20, 2011

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Agile and PPM – Q&A

On October 27th, I co-presented the webinar, “A Marriage Made in Heaven: Agile and Project Portfolio Management”, with Russ King, Vice President, Product Development, Results Positive, Inc. and Caleb Brown, Systems Engineer at CollabNet. We explored the benefits of marrying Agile Project Management and PPM and we did a live demo showing this using HP’s PPM solution and CollabNet’s ScrumWorks Pro to demonstrate the powerful capabilities of managing a resource constrained project portfolio.

Judging by the number of questions, the audience was clearly heavily engaged. We had a 15 minute Q&A and did not come close to answering all of the questions, so I’ve listed most of them here and provided a response. I also encourage you to try ScrumWorks Pro for free.

As promised, here’s the follow up to the live audience questions.

Q: How feasible is Agile on Projects & Programs?
A: Agile is typically thought of in the context of individual projects. Companies sometimes fail to scale that paradigm to a program level, where the program is a superset of multiple projects, each running its own lifecycle and release plan. The trick is to weave those separate lines of development (projects) into a coherent and seamless deliverable (program). The complexity comes in gathering meaningful metrics and planning releases that thread the elements together. This is exceedingly difficult to do manually. CollabNet’s ScrumWorks Pro is a tool that can make this manageable. It supports the planning of complex releases that weave in multiple development threads.

Q: Will this process will be feasible for maintenance related projects (Incident handling, less than 8 hours development works, etc.,)?
A: From the PPM perspective, an individual defect is not in and of itself a project and as such, would not be tracked. What might be tracked is a larger group of maintenance items in the form of an Epic. From an Agile perspective, a bug report or defect is just another piece of deliverable business value, like a User Story or any other Product Backlog Item. From a bug report, the product owner and team would create a Product Backlog Item (PBI), along with success criteria (definition of done). It is prioritized against all of the other Product Backlog Item by the product owner. Again, multiple bugs/defects are often grouped in an Epic.

Q: It seems the PPM is geared toward a waterfall process. It appears there is only visibility into the Development phase, but with agile, you could potentially address all phases within a single sprint. Is that just because of the way this implementation was set up or is it there isn’t a true marriage of the agile within PPM?
A: PPM in this scenario is focused on evaluating the ROI of different projects and deciding where to make investments. Agile is focused on execution of the projects that are chosen. That said, the scenario we propose makes the entire organization more Agile, in that the feedback loop is instantaneous. This allows those that are making the investment decisions to adapt and make course corrections that are indicated by that feedback loop. The integration gives all team members the ability to work in a more Agile fashion, and gives Stakeholders and Project managers the ability to benefit from the faster feedback and data generated by the team working this way.

Q: Can the tasks in Scrum WorksPro be connected to tasks, timelines in Source forge?
A: Not with Sourceforge. However this is possible with Collabnet Teamforge, the current commercial version of Sourceforge.

Q: Can you clarify what part of Agile PPM can be done in scrum works pro without need for HP PPM?
A: ScrumWorks Pro is focused on project execution and project management. As such ScrumWorks does a number of things not accomplished in HP PPM. These include PBI tracking and prioritization, Task management sprint planning, release planning, team velocity, forecasting, and many other functions related to the management of an Agile project.

Q: So are you proposing (in the demo) to combine a phase/waterfall planning and design phase, but then execute in an agile framework?
A: Combining HP PPM and ScrumWorks Pro adds to the agility of the entire organization. Feedback loops between the development team and the PMO are enhanced allowing the PMO to make course corrections required. I would not say that as a result the entire enterprise has become agile – only that they’ve become more agile. Generally, we do not see many organizations that practice a pure version of ANY methodology –be it Agile or otherwise. The reality is that organizations have a mix of methodologies, like Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall, hybrids, etc. Different teams in large organizations will often build software differently, so the challenge is to roll up the data from those disparate teams. Despite their differences, there are a number of common metrics you can track regardless of project type. These include actual cost versus budgeted cost, scope change, personnel/resource change, delivery dates, and others. Tools like ScrumWorks and HP PPM do a good job in tracking these kinds of numbers.

Q: Continuing from the first question, from a portfolio perspective, having “”open-ended”” project budgets within the Agile/SDLC process is not in the best interest of my customer. How does budget planning and Agile development work together while still having some control over costs?
A: Project prioritization and the associated budgeting/funding are is under the purview of the PPM tools. The agile project management tool tracks the amount of time individuals spend on the project. The integration between the HP PPM tool and the Agile Project Management tool, allows you to easily compare budgets against actuals.

Q: In agile, what are the differences between being adaptive to late changes in requirements within a sprint and scope change?
A: Scope change refers to any added or subtracted scope, typically measured in some form of relative effort unit like Story Points. As such, scope may be added as a team discovers more about an existing requirement. In other words, if the team finds out that a requirement is more complex than was originally envisioned, they may re-estimate the number of story points and this might add scope to a sprint. The opposite could also be true. Whether this occurs because of a discovery inside a sprint or outside of it doesn’t change the nature of how it is tracked or reported upon.

Q: When a committed backlog item could not be completed in a sprint, naturally it holds the top most priority in the following sprint. How does ScrumWorks helps in tracking this item from the beginning to end?
A: An unfinished PBI may or may not be a high enough priority in a future sprint. The determination is made by the product owners. In any event, any activity against that PBI is tracked. Tasks completed that relate to that PBI are tracked, as are those that were uncompleted.

Q: What certification do CollabNet-trained scrum masters receive?
A: Those who attend one of our Certified Scrum Master or Certified Product Owner training are eligible to take the exam deliver by the Scrum Alliance. It should be noted that CollabNet is one of the leaders in ScrumMaster product Owner training. We have more Certified Scrum Trainers on staff than any other vendor, and we’ve trained more than 12,000 ScrumMasters.  We also give away free online Scrum Master training to supplement the certified training.

Q: If an organization wants to be able to report a metric of time to resolution for individual PBIs, what settings are available in this integration to include/exclude a PBI from the current active lists so that a countdown starts appropriately?
A: Forecast reports in ScrumWorks can be filtered on any number of aspects, allowing a user to deliver estimates on individual tasks, Stories, Epics or Themes. By the way, you can try out ScrumWorks Pro either in a hosted environment or as a free download.

Posted under Agile Coaching, Agile Methodology, PPM, Scrum, Scrum Coaching, Scrum training

Release Planning Using Agile

Just because you’re doing scrum, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with finance and management when it comes to giving a real estimate for completion.

Scrum, as most agile processes, takes the approach that cost and time are fixed and that it’s the scope (or features) that are variable.

“You’ll rarely be remembered for missing a feature…but you’ll never be forgotten for missing a schedule”….. Which is why it’s important to make sure that communication with all stakeholders is crisp and that they understand how projects are being scheduled.

Ken Whitaker has written a detailed article on The Agile Schedule posted on article is fairly technical and includes concepts such as the “cone of uncertainty”, “rough order of magnitude”, and “definitive scheduling”.When I took the Scrum Master certification course we covered these concepts at a high level. We also talked about backlog grooming and why a good and consistent backlog grooming will do wonders for improving release scheduling. Although backlog grooming is not a formal component of the Scrum process, Ken Schwaber, who founded Scrum, advises teams to dedicate five percent of every sprint to this activity. Everyone should attend the backlog grooming meeting and help the Scrum product owner prepare the scrum backlog for the next sprint planning meeting. Activities during this meeting often include breaking epics into stories, adding stories to the backlog, clearly defining acceptance criteria and more. If this is done on a consistent basis you will greatly improve your agile release planning.

Posted under Agile Methodology, Scrum

This post was written by admin on April 23, 2010

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How is Agile Changing the Way We Work?

By now, it’s practically accepted that software development and project management, generally, are being re-imagined by agile management techniques. But in a recent article on Projects@Work, called “Agile Drivers,” CST Angela Druckman explains why that is. As she explains, there are six factors that are driving agility in organizations—and they’re changing the way we conceive of doing business. To summarize, the six factors she identifies are:

  • The “hero” mentality gives way to collective intelligence.
  • Small teams rule.
  • Stop applying pressure, start removing impediments.
  • Focus on business value.
  • Distributed teams are the norm, not the exceptioin.
  • Roles will change.

Sound like some topics that have been on your mind lately? If so, I encourage you to take a look at DruckmanÂ’s article here.

Posted under Agile Methodology, Scrum

This post was written by admin on March 17, 2010

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Lean Software

As IÂ’ve discussed here before, Lean manufacturing, typified by Toyota and HondaÂ’s production system of the 1980s, was one of the most influential precursors to agile development practices. Specifically, LeanÂ’s emphasis on ongoing evaluation of the teamÂ’s performance, constant pursuit of process improvement, and continued waste elimination can be directly observed in agileÂ’s tenets of incremental and iterative inspection and adaptation. Tony Baer, an analyst who covers agile, discussed how Lean has become a hot topic of discussion of late among the agile community. According to Baer’s post, this debate boils down to two arguments: “First is the contention that value stream analysis will add unnecessary bottlenecks, and second is that software development is a special case to which manufacturing metaphors do not apply.”

Baer’s take on these issues tends to align with my own thinking. Firstly, he acknowledges that it does seem a little contradictory for a development methodology that privileges a reactive approach to emerging conditions to place such an emphasis on value stream analysis. However, he still acknowledges the value of this kind of analysis. In the case of the latter argument, Baer cites a concern among developers that software development is categorically different from any other kind of construction or development process that occurs in the real world. Certainly, such criticisms are correct: Software development is not governed by a stable set of physical properties like, say, bridge building is. However, Lean’s values—as described above—are all applicable to project management, regardless of what is being produced. After all, Lean is essentially a philosophical approach, in which teams and organizations commit to continuous improvement—by reflecting on processes and taking whatever steps necessary to improve them.

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by admin on September 29, 2009

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What Stands in the Way of an Agile Transformation?

Craig Larman and Bas Vodde have published a list of the top ten impediments organizations face when attempting to adopt agile management methods, based on a survey of agile experts at very large companies. Now, I know most of us don’t like to be reminded about what weÂ’re doing wrong, but, frankly, thatÂ’s exactly why I’d recommend taking a look at this. You might recognize some of these anti-patterns. In fact, some may be much too close to the bone. Of course, being aware of the anti-patterns we perpetuate in an agile environment is the first step toward eliminating them.

I won’t spoil the countdown for you, but I will speak to a pair of impediments that the authors mention that were not reported by the survey respondents:

  1. “A culture of individual workers rather than real teams and teamwork;” and
  2. “The gap between people in management roles and those doing the hands-on work.”

Both of these impediments boil down to an issue of “culture,” which I would argue is the single biggest obstacle preventing teams from successfully implementing agile practices. Why? Quite simply, if a team is unprepared for or unwilling to acknowledge the fact that agile is significantly different from traditional management paradigms, then it will continue to operate according to the status quo. For change to truly stick at an organization, all of its employees—from management to “those doing the hands-on work”—must understand the magnitude of the adoption and revise their working methods accordingly. When a culture embraces the changes precipitated by an agile adoption, those values can quickly move throughout an organization and allow process improvements to take place. But if the culture obstinately clings to old, familiar ways of working, thereÂ’s little chance of it evolving.

Posted under Agile Methodology, Uncategorized

This post was written by admin on June 18, 2009

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