Saturday, December 26, 2009

Seasons Greetings from Projectized !!

I wish a Happy and prosperous 2010 to all my readers and advertising sponsors. Thank you so much for your support during 2009. In 2010, I wish to have more knowledge sharing, Interesting discussions and more than anything else to link up with you more closely... no matter who you are or which part of the world you are from…

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Offshore project management and use of Agile. – Part 2 – Tiers of Outsourcing


The part 1 of this article has already received industry attention than I have expected. I’ve seen it has been referred in some discussions, forums and even in twitter and FB many times. Now it has been published in ICPM where it meant to be.

This is the 2nd article of the series. In this article I’m going to discuss the tiers of outsourcing.

When you initiate an outsourced project as the outsourcee, or when making the decision to outsource a project as the outsourcer it’s very important to understand which tier of outsourcing you are in to. This will give you some intelligence in advance about these extra issues you may face in outsourced projects compared to collocated projects. I can think of many dimensions of outsourcing when I define the tiers..
But following categorization based on geography – distance and time zones simply help me to understand many common positive and negative risks of such projects in each context.

'Outsourcing is outsourcing' either you outsource the project to your next door software company or to a company in the other side of the globe. Because in either case you need to manage external contracts, requirements, risks, security and knowledge transferring. However as I have shown in this diagram, the challenges in outsource project management increases when we move up in the tires mainly due to the communication issues and secondly due to cultural issues which I will be discussing in some of the future articles.

First, lets look at the bottom tier. The main advantage of outsourcing to a company with less travel distance is that it could facilitate more of face to face discussions whenever required. This will cut off a big portion of distant communication risks. The other point is that having same language speaking people working for you may provide you the luxury of using your native language in business discussions. Mostly the business and personal cultures will not have much difference with both the company professionals who work together for the projects and that will result much quicker relationship building among project teams. However this tier of outsourcing mostly delivers only the benefits described in the 1st and 2nd points which I discussed in the 1st part of this article.

Nearsourcing , the 2nd tier of outsourcing is more commonly seen among Western and Eastern Europe countries. Countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are stabilizing as software outsourcing destinations for Western Europe markets. As I see the software businesses attracts near sourcing mainly due to reducing the risks of cultural difficulties, legalization issues for onsite work and contractual/ financial terms. Further they benefit with minimized time zone differences. But if someone think Nearsorcing is the solution to avoid all the critical risk factors of outsourcing, it’s a big myth. Sometimes I see Nearsourcing bring more communication problems to the table.
Imagine a company in Norway outsource a project to a development company in Greece. I don’t see many Norwegions fluent in Greek or Many Greeks speak Norwegion. Neither parties don’t use English as their main business language. So these two teams trying to use English as a common language for communication can deliver more risks in Nearsouring than a Norwegion team communicate with a team in South East Asia where English is the main business language to do day to day work.
Nearsorcing seems very attractive for some of the industries such as manufacturing. If you look at the cost factor, Nearsorcing can bring you cost saving specially when it comes to manufacturing simply due to less transportation costs of goods. Hefty ocean fuel surcharges are involved when transportation happens from China to USA compared to Nearsorcing operation from Mexico to USA.
However based on available options in the global outsourcing market its still an argument to decide how much benefit Nearsorucing can bring in to software business which is totally different from manufacturing especially with relatively high labor costs of software professionals of Eastern Europe countries compared to most the SEA countries.

The third tier is what I’m experiencing right now with our current business at Exilesoft development in Sri Lanka and customers located in Norway. The same experience I have had for many years with some companies located in Australia, UK, Germany, Greece and New Zealand. Teams falling to this tier may face almost all the challenges in outsource business but still there is overlapping business hours within the same day where distributed teams can use for collaboration.
By looking at most the SEA software engagements with western countries, its proven that If well managed and well modeled, this tier delivers most the benefits of outsourcing business for the outsourcer as well as the outsourcee due to many reasons. The only difference in the top most tier compared to this tier is that, distributed teams in outsourcing business who are falling to the top most tier has no overlapping business time for collaboration. This increases risk of communication and becomes quite difficult to practice some of the agile methods which need closer and casual communication for projects specially the “Daily scrum” in scrum teams. There are alternatives we may use in such context (But not the Scrum mail :) period!!!) which we will be discussing in the future.

I have used Waterfall and Agile management concepts on such outsourcing projects in almost all these tiers. Compared to all the frameworks and models I have used, I find agile management concepts help to reduce the risks of outsourcing software projects drastically if used wisely.

In the 3rd part of this article we will have a closer look at dealing with culture differences in the project management falling to 3rd and 4th tiers of outsourcing and in the 4th part onward we will have a detailed discussion on other common difficulties and risks we face in outsourcing compared to collocated development while discussing how Agile can be used in each case to reduce the risks by taking Scrum as an example.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Kanban , Scrum, waterfall.. XP ?????. Nope… its time to have fun !!!!

Exilesoft Celebrates another successful year.. !!! We have been scrumming a lot this year !! :-) and now its time to have fun!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

PMI Colombo Chapter Event - November.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Offshore project management and use of Agile. – Part 1

Its again Winter in North.. So we are busy here at Exilesoft, Sri Lanka with most the customers who visit us. That's one nice thing in offshore business, as much as we enjoy travelling Europe, it seems our customers have found a second home to come when the winter starts in their countries. This is an ideal time we get to work together again as collocated teams. For them its quite exiting to work with us as well as to extend their business trip for one week or so to have little relax time in this exotic Island, explore the culture and have a better understanding and stronger bonding between the customer and development teams. Altogether it’s an awesome experience for both the parties. I too enjoy such visits of our customers a lot.

In the same time, being in software offshore business is not easy. Unless you have the right relationship between the outsourcer and outsourcee, the offshore business can become really painful to both the parties.Software development itself is quite challenging even in collocated development environment. When it comes to offshore software development, we are adding some more complexities to it, simple reason is that an offshore development team faces the same complexities which an in-house team faces + much more . So the Project management in this environment by balancing this distant relationship is quite a challenging endeavor.

This series of articles which Im writing to ICPM, will be focused on the challenges in such offshore business and how we use Scrum (One of the Agile methods) at my current organization to overcome these mostly seen challenges in Offshore business. I hear you.. It’s a trade off. When we overcome some of the main issues., there will be other issues which we may face.. Its understood. Its all about how to overcome the most serious issues in such environment and deliver the right value to the customer without scraping the organization’s bottom line.

To manage these offshore/outsourced projects with distributed teams successfully, We first need to understand why Organizations outsource their software projects. By working twelve years in this industry I have seen the same reasons with most my customers who decided on outsourcing their projects to us irrespective of the size of their projects.

1. Skilled Resources
In Some of the countries , its quite hard to recruit skilled resources compared to others. May be its all about the availability of such skilled resources, the market competition as well as the difficulty of hiring such experienced resources only for one or two projects (Shorter time period).

2. Business Focus.
Even if they have these resources available to hire, if the organization’s main focus is not the IT business, it may not be always wiser to hire such resources and expand the IT departments which is not their primary business focus. As an example, a company in travel industry needs to be focused on travel business instead being focused on expanding its software development. So in this context, outsourcing its software development to an organization which focuses on software business can be a wiser move.

3. Protecting the Intellectual Capital
If an organization develop one of its core software products which will give them their competitive edge in the market, the last thing this organization may need is to have its developers who worked on this product to join its competitors with all the knowledge about the business. Some times when an organization hire people from the same country or state, there is quite a risk factor that the developers who work for this product may join their competitors when the assignment is over. But outsourcing this product to a country far away which doesn’t have such closer relationship with the other organizations in the same market may reduce the risk factor.

4. Cost
Most the organizations carry their cost benefit analysis before outsourcing its software projects to other companies. Its quite important that the cost difference to be a visible factor. However there is hidden costs in software outsourcing which I will discuss in a latter article under this series.

5. Round the clock / Extended hours of production
As an Example, if there are 2 distributed teams in an Organization in Norway and Sri Lanka, and if both team work their 8 working hours, the total production time expands to 12 hours as Norway is 4 hours behind Sri Lanka. This helps in some of the product development and software support work.

Its important that as the outsourcee we understand the key factors which enable the outsourcing business of the customer and deliver the expectations throughout development.

In the next part of the article, I will discuss the tiers of such software outsourcing and how the challenges increases in each tier. >>

Sunday, November 08, 2009

P2P Conference 2009 - Agile Stream.

Monday :
Most the speakers who reached Cairo before the conference had a visit to Giza Pyramids and the museum on Monday which was quite fascinating , specially to get to know each other as some of us have never met before and in the same time to explore Cairo, History etc. We all had lots of fun together. What I mostly enjoyed was the camel ride !

Picture : Me and Giza Pyramids

When we reached the hotel it was bit late, Before I went to the room, I met Dave Prior (Immediate past chair of PMI IT & Telecom Sig), It was so exiting to see him as we have been knowing each other through articles , blogs and emails for quite a time. He was amazing.
At night Emad ( the host of P2P and the CEO of Brisk Consulting wanted to meet all the speakers in order to give an overview of the conference. Except me all the others were from eitther USA or Canada. After the meeting , others proceeded to the Dinner but I was tired and full with late lunch so I went to bed.

The conference started officially on 3rd Tuesday with Keynote speeches by some of the ministers of Egypt Government and some industry experts. It was quite interesting to see how Egypt government has understood the importance of proper project management expertise in the region. The afternoon sessions were more focused on PMOs and Maturity of PMOs in General.
There we met Ricardo Viana Vargas (PMI Board of Directors Chair) Dave introduced me to him and gave him a reminder about one of my articles which they have referred before with regard to Agile and PMBOK. Jesse who was with us didn’t forget to tease me about the PMI April issue and me being the cover girl ( oh I'm blushed ) in front of him. And we had a little chat. I was so impressed to hear how open he is to Agile and Scrum while heading PMI, It was very impressive. I thought to bring this up in the Colombo chapter discussion next time.
Dave proposed that we should grab a coffee and do a practice run of my first presentation with himself and Jim as I was little nervous about the presentations among all the very experienced speakers.. But they were quite happy with the practice run so their comments gave me lots of confidence before presenting to the audience.
Dave gave me more info on Transition of the PM in Agile which he thought would be the questions from the Audience.

We started the Scrum sessions by 4th November. This segment was conducted by James Cundiff- Jim( Managing Director Scrum Alliance, Dave Prior, Jesse Fewell, Bob Tarne and me. It was an amazing experience to work with such people and we were a great Cross functional Scrum team. we conducted most the sessions with some discussions ,questions and answers.

The Amazing thing in this sessions were that, we , speakers had arguments about certain concepts openly in front of the audience. It was never a stiff speeches we see in normal conferences. As a team we turned it around. As a team we made it very agile , open and direct. Jim mentioned his opinion on daily scrum which Dave and Myself disagreed openly, Jesse had a conflicting idea about initiating an organization with Scrum against my opinion. We all had certain arguments on how to position a PM in this transition .. Very upfront.. This was amazing and most the audience gave lots of encouraging comments about the way we handled it . There you go....They got the idea of Scrum not being a very prescriptive method.. In RUP you never argue on how to write a use case or a PFD.. So that was an eye opening for the audience. Thanks Jim for starting this conversations.

Jim and Dave opened the session by explaining the basics of scrum. they got some volunteers from the audience to play a game for the attendees to understand the effectiveness of initial one time planning Vs Iterative planning. Then the next session was mine. I had to present the Organizations moving from waterfall to Agile , the challenges they may face in this transition. I touched main areas in the presentation such as Why Moving to Agile, (there I had a great story to convince the audience with real pictures to support the story)Which Agile methods to be selected , In Which layer of the Organization to be aproached first, (there I explained the core cultures of organistions and how to spot the right layer based on the specific culture ) then the most important part, how to handle the people in this transition, such as customer, Technical staff, Management and specially the project manager. Phew !!! You know what.. I got a blue screen.. Why MEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!! But somehow I managed to not to click "my Panic button". so all were ok and I got some good comments about the presentation.
lessons Leaned : Have story cards in your hand , when ever you go to a presentation.. If your computer make troubles, still you can continue without an issue.

After the coffee break, Dave presented about "Reluctant Agilest" quite an interesting presentation about a story how painful agile can be when not embraced in right way.
There after, Jesse took over and he explained "Agile PMO" how agile a PMO could be. Very informative presentation on that aspect and he showed his maturity in managing PMO through out the presentation with live examples.
Then the Audience was lesser for the second session after the lunch break and Bobs presentation was to address the knowledge management for Agile projects. Im sure which has been a very interesting presentation , But I missed it as I went out of the room to get ready for my next presentation on the same day which is Outsourced Project management and challenges in Agile.
I think that was the best presentation I ever made in my life. It all came from my heart as this is what I have been doing for past 12 years. I discussed about outsourcing issues openly in 5 key areas and how we have used Agile to overcome these issues in my current company. Which was the presentation that I have got most the positive feedback so far. ( Most the delegates commented to me at the next day coffee break that they have never known Sri Lanka as such a software offshore destination.. Hmm I was happy..)We closed the day with my presentation.

We had an awesome night that day .. With all the speakers and some of the other people , we had lots of fun. The night was too long .. Me and Jesse who had to take the next day morning sessions were half dead when we reached the hotel around early morning the next day.

3rd day started with Jesse’s presentation on Agile vs PMBOK, which audience had many questions which they needed to clarify. Again I missed most the parts of this presentation as next I had to present my last presentation on Effective communication in Agile. I explained the difference between agile communication and the traditional project communication. In the same time I got some real project examples to show how Agile communication can go wrong with such informal methods. According the audience they had a good presentation from me.. But to be honest I think I was not with my full energy for this presentation compared to others. The next session was a very interesting one by Bob about the user stories and the last session was by Jesse about the Agile contracts. There he explained how fix price works in Agile contracts which is the case in most the real world projects. Interesting !!!

We had the round table discussion afterwards, all 5 of us together.. it was very nice...

Picture : closing dicussion by all the Agile speakers (from left to righit ) Jesse Fewell, PMP, CST, Dave Prior (CST, PMP, Immediate past chair of PMI IT & Telecom Sig ), me, Bob Tarne PMP and James Cundiff( Managing Director Scrum Alliance )

At night some of the speakers went for a dinner in Nile cruise while me , Dave, Jim, Andrew and Bob conducted a retrospective about the Agile stream of the conference. It was time well spent.
After the retrospective again we had a late night.. Not that late as previous night as Jim had to catch his flight back home , Emad and Nora (the hosts ) invited us to taste a real Egyptian Dinner at a real nice exotic Egyptian restaurant.. It was really a nice experience..
After that we said Good bye to each other.. It was such a sad thing to leave such wonderful people whom we worked together for few days as a team.
My flight is today evening.. Only Dave and myself were left in the hotel with the hosts as all the other speakers have left. We both had a small breakfast meeting at Marriot to discuss what we can do in the future together, specialy my interest to become a CST and upcomming PM conference in colombo which will be really good.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Are you a good Scrum master ?

Scrum master is a servants leader .. We say this all the time.. So Scrum masters .. how good you rate yourself as a leader is scrum project. check out this matrix introduced by Bob Hartman (Agile Bob)

1. Listening – actively listening to what others are saying
2. Empathy – feeling the pain and thrills of others
3. Healing – helping others after they have been hurt
4. Awareness – understanding the big picture
5. Persuasion – persuading others to do what is right
6. Conceptualization – helping the team understand
7. Foresight – seeing problems before they arise
8. Stewardship – helping the team use resources most effectively
9. Commitment to growth of others – helping others improve
10. Building community – helping the team become more than a
group of individuals

Friday, October 02, 2009

Microsoft Dynamics AX team

We have openings for a Microsoft Dynamics AX consultant and few AX developers from Sri Lanka or India, if anyone.. Please send me the CV to

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PMI Colombo chapter Open Forum Oct - 2009

The Guest Speech: Challenges to be faced when move from Waterfall to Agile.
Speaker: Mr. Finn Worm-Petersen, CEO Exilesoft
Date: 8th October 2009
Venue : Taj Samudra Hotel 5 PM – 7 PM
RSVP: Please call Vajira on 0714353787 to reserve your seat (None members fee Rs. 500)
You can earn 3 PDUs under Category 4 by participating the event.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

World is bigger.. Its bigger than SCRUM..


Did you hear about the facebook addicted criminals story on Sheryl's keynote speech at Advertising Week! (She is the COO of Facebook. She explained a true story of a criminal entering to a house, seen facebook in the computer. Logged in to it but didn’t log out ! :) He must be a Facebook addict like me.
Ok where did this Facebook story came up.. Ok.. Now I can remember , I saw someone’s FB status said today that treat every problem as an opportunity. I believe in it ! I have been always whining about my home only weekends.. But now Ive kept my whining aside and learned to use it as an opportunity to spend little time on reading..
Never mind all that.. Lets get in to the point.. Scrum and Kanban.. I see some heated up discussions going on….!. Its sad that some people believe that scrum is a god given solution to all the problems.. Scrum is great and it works in the right context! But not in all the contexts. I saw an article published by, they ask what do you think is the best tool … Fork or spoon? Good example. I know It’s a senseless question. So if you ask me again what’s best Scrum or Kanban I would say it’s a senseless question.(But I admit that I have not used Kanban in practice) But if you ask what’s much more prescriptive, definitely I can see that Scrum is more prescriptive than Kanban. However all the agile methods are much much less prescriptive than waterfall methods and that’s why those are mostly referred as light weighted methods. When the prescriptiveness is less in a tool, one should use more creativity and brain to make it work, but you get less constraints and high freedom.
Scrum works perfectly in product development.. But I can foresee its definitely going to be failed when you cannot plan proper sprints, when you can’t have that committed time for committed user stories. The best example is maintenance projects. How long you can commit to ? 1 month sprint ? 2 weeks sprint .. No.. most the time you cant go beyond 1 day I suppose.
In the article written by Henrik Kniberg, about how you can make scrum works with Kanban, he describes the adaptiveness and prescriptivenss of various methods beautifully. There he compares RUP , XP, SCRUM , KANBAN, and another Agile method called Do what ever :) ( which most of us are frequently used to :)) He rates the Prescriptive to adaptiveness scale of these methods as RUP (highest 120+ ) XP (13) Scrum (9) , Kanban (3) and Do what ever as 0 . As he says “RUP is pretty prescriptive – it has over 30 roles, over 20 activities, and over 70 artifacts, this may be one reason why RUP implementations end up being heavy weighted compared to Agile methods such as SCRUM and XP

The main difference between XP and scrum is that , XP stress on how to do work such as test driven development and pair programming.. But Scrum doesn’t tell us about how we should do development. So scrum is definitely going to be more adaptive than XP.

Lets look at RUP and SCRUM now.. Most the time Im in firing line about Scrum as most my colleagues are coming from "sort of RUP" environment. I had an interesting discussion today with a PM friend from my PM network, he said RUP is like a dish with too much of salt and SCRUM is like a dish with too less salt. You will not eat both as it is.. there are so much you should take out when you are implementing RUP , same time you need to add bit more essence to SCRUM when you are implementing it in practical environment. (Read my previous post about SCRUM and test cases/use cases.)

Ok looking back to Kanban, Kanban also looks very attractive to a less process person like me LOL

The main differences Ive understood In Kanban compared to SCRUM is that;
1. Scrum tells you when to do planning , when to do the retrospective when to do the next sprint planning.. in Kanban you do as you see the requirement for it
2. In Scrum you are focused on delivering what you are committed to sprint, you do your best.. deliver what you can , next sprint you see how to improve, you measure this by velocity of a sprint, in Kanban you limit your Que in a workflow state. As an example you can say you can’t have more than 2 to do items in the item dashboard at any given time. But in Scrum you commit to user stories and you control the work to do by committed user stories.
My personal view is that Scrum is somewhat lean(But I know there are lots of arguments over this at the moment.) However Kanban is much more Lean than Scrum for sure.
Kanban don't stress about time boxing as far as Scrum revolves around it , Kanban cares about lead time.
To me as I read Kanban can be scaled much easier for multiple teams. But I need to experiment more on that.

I think this is one reason why I think Kanban can be a help in maintenance type of projects when Scrum becomes challenging.. However today there are lots of mix marriages.. Mix when you want to get the best out of them.. I had a waterfall team who had 15 min stand up meeting every morning.. Im going to have scrum teams who will use use- cases for user stories from RUP process. Now I don’t mind combining Kanban with Scrum when its needed.. ! All what matters is the success of the project. All these are tools for you to use them right to get in there.

Following diagram is taken from

Friday, September 25, 2009

International Project Managers day 2009.


International Project Managers day is scheduled for 5th November. ( Cool :) Like Moms day , Fathers day, valentine’s day. … PMs who are always in firing line also should have a day for them I believe :)
There is a very good webcast program which you can join on 4th and 5th November.. the great project management professionals such as Gregory Balestrero - President and CEO, Project Management Institute are scheduled to give speeches on this.
You can find more info on this at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Online Exam for Certified Scrum Master

the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors (Board) has decided to move forward with the launch of the online Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) exam on October 1. For more details Visit Scrum Alliance web page.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Scrum and Documentation.(use cases/ test cases). ?

I know I was suppose to write few posts totally focused on practical aspects of user stories. But I thought to write this post first, because last week I had an interesting discussion at office which could be really useful to other agile practitioners as well.
We were talking further about agile testing. Especially with Scrum. We do have a separate well focused QA team managed by an experienced QA lead. In our model, the QA department is independent from any projects and they directly report to the Project Director. So how does this model work with SCRUM? I find sometimes its bit contradicting with concepts. We know Scrum has cross functional teams and each developer is responsible about their Quality. However, there can be testers too working in scrum team full time, they will be team members within the scrum team and coordinate with the scrum master. But if the QA department runs separately how do we do that? We had 2 options. Running 2 scrum teams for same project, you can call it scale up scrum, one for QA and one for Development, then have scrum of scrum everyday to synchronize with 2 teams. The 2nd option was for QA team to give permanent QA resources to each scrum team and they will apart from the QA department. In that case it would be an organizational change as well as we will be losing the concept of the power of an independent QA team who certify the delivery before delivering to the end customer.We thought of maintaining the same independent QA team and still to run Scrum ( if you don’t like me calling scrum for this method.. sure .. you can call it something different.:). ) But then the biggest problem is that how the QA team members get the knowledge of the product? Because, in a Scrum team the documentation is very less. We don’t create lengthy specifications and pass them over the wall. Then how does my independent QA team get this knowledge from the development team who participate the Product backlog planning meetings and sprint planning meetings.The following are the points we discussed;
1. One QA member of the QA dept participate the product backlog meetings as well as sprint planning meetings.
At the product backlog planning meeting, the assigned QA member with the team will decide which user stories will need use cases. Further, we discuss about using some very light weighted use case only when required. You can find a good article on some light weighted use cases for Scrum in

2. Once the product backlog planning is over , the QA team member who participated the product backlog meeting will educate the QA dept head about the scope of work in QA dept with regard to the project.
3. In the sprint planning meeting, when the team decides of which vertical to be focused on, the team will create those use cases only for the specific selected vertical for the particular sprint. For that sprint, the sprint should have tasks and enough space to complete the use cases. In this case sometimes we may have to go away from our usual 2 weeks sprints to 4 weeks sprint.

4. Once the team finishes the required use cases, they will sign in to development tasks. The QA will have tasks to create the test cases during the sprint. So now we have test cases too.
5. Once the iteration is done (At the end of the sprint), the development team delver the shippable product increment to the QA department. , One of the tradeoffs is that this will delay the customers immediate delivery at the end of the iteration by few days.. But as a company, we need to assure the quality of what we deliver to the customer by our focused QA unit. I think this is better , so in this way, customers product quality is basically assured 2 times. Which enable us to deliver a very good quality product to the customer.

6. This QA dept quality checking also can be time boxed to few days as there cannot be such a bottleneck for the product owner to test the vertical.

I can see we can eliminate few practical problems in Scrum model by using few extra steps. Because we all may not have that “Luxury of right context” for scrum in real world business.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Scrum... never ending questions !! “yeah It’s a framework :)

Someone had an argument with me about something I mentioned about scrum at some place.. ( Ok I would call it a “discussion” :-)) I love when someone challenges me on something what I talk about..!
Ok the “conversation” I had is this;
I said the scrum project starts only when the Product backlog is ready !! Im sure Im correct.. Ken Schwaber said it better way than me.. (Obviously he should! )…“The minimum plan necessary to start a Scrum project consists of a vision and a Product Backlog “sounds clear..!
The point is that, in business, we position ourselves as a total solution provider in software. Specially in Outsourcing business where we are in to, the product owner becomes a role from the customer’s business manager or the product manager. Because the total understanding and the product vision is very difficult to be transferred to another person who is outside the geography boundaries as he has no much understanding about the target market. ( we could hire someone from the customer location as a consultant for sure, but its not a practical solution for every project we do )

We all know that Product owner is never a part of scrum team. Ok then, do we leave the product owner to create the product backlog in that case? Do we have product owners who has enough time and knowledge to do the groundwork which is required to come up with the product backlog?

I thought this would help many readers who are about this pre stage of scrum.

The point is Yes ! Scrum doesn’t stop the team getting involved with doing necessary mind mapping work, wire frames , use-cases and other background work to help the product owner to get the user stories of the product done.. But those tasks will not happen within the scrum project. In scrum project everything is time boxed. We have a planning meetings within defined time , we have tasks to be executed ( sprint) within defined time and we have a scrum day within a defined time. So we know exactly how time is taken for these specific user stories to be developed in scrum. However, the pre tasks such as helping the product owner to get the user stories ready can be done with the team involvement, and then the question is “when the team can get involved with the process”
It can happen at anytime, but the latest is the product backlog planning meeting . Then the question comes.. How long time is needed to come up with the user stories? I don’t think any Scrum guru can give an answer to that..( I learned during my CSM that there is an easy answer for all the difficult questions in scrum – the answer is “it depends”)

Actually the time needed to come up with user stories really depend on the knowledge of the product, availability of other stakeholders, business environment, and many other factors. I don’t think the time you spend to come up with Product A for 100 user stories will have any relationship to the time you need to come up with Product B :100 user stories. Otherwise there could be already set benchmarks in the industry for time to create user stories. Which is never the case.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

User stories - Do they need a format ?


Every person whom I meet teaches me how much I don’t know about some subject. Either its about the world, history, culture, religion, different industries… whatever it is…This happens to me all the time when travelling. I have some luck to have good company most the time while travelling or in transit. Those strangers ended up being my “friends” frequently.

This time when I was travelling from Frankfurt to Doha, Some stranger fell in to conversation with me after seen my notebook bag ( I think I have mentioned about this notebook bag before in this blog J ) He assumed that I work for an IT company and he is an Agile management consultant based in Denmark and travelling to Doha for some assignment. You can imagine now.. a conversation in a long flight extended by 1 hour delay J

It was very interesting to know about various experiences we both had with Scrum and he was quite used to many other agile methods which I have never been exposed to before. However we both agreed that Scrum is the most popular Agile (According to him.. “The well marketed and money making Agile”) right now.

Talking about various experiences I asked his experience about user stories. This was some challenging area in Scrum projects. Getting the user stories right…

I always believed its better to have the standard for user stories “ As a “, “I need to “ “So that I can”.. In this way the requirements become much clearer to everyone and we may not miss the users what their expectations etc.. But he disagreed. I was surprised, but he had a valid argument on this. Example: As a Job applicant I want to post my CV to the job portal so that the prospective employers can view my CV in PDF format”

His argument was that its always difficult to stick with real users in user stories. As an example; you want to have date widgets in an application, so that do you write “as a designer I want to use the list of widgets so that “…….. ??? Where is the real user in this user story? ? I couldn’t agree less. Because I just completed a project initiation where there were many many user stories which I couldn’t think of mapping to my standard template originally but I had to do it by force with tweaking them by using developers, designers , architects as types of users which may not be the best case.. He also had the same experience .. One of his initial product backlogs 80% of the time it has been “ As a product owner “ which doesn’t make any sense…J

But then.. Million dollar question.. Why Mike Cohn standardized that user stories in a standard way? Didn’t he see this problem? I don’t think so .. Need much more thinking and reading on this.. may be some times not using standards would be better than using standards if they are not meaningful.. I will definitely do a follow-up post on this..

Anyway bottom line out of scrum is that speak to anyone who try to make a conversation with you…never know what they will come up with J

Yeah Im not a person who can live with open ended questions.. So Im chasing answers:

28th June..

Follow up today : I purchased the book from Amazon "User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development " by Mike Cohn

29th June

I found this article :

Missing Dimention of user stories : Interesting thoughts:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Scrum project initiation

Very interesting project to work with some cool robots :-) and nice people. and more than anything the office is located in a beautiful area..I love this trees houses, plants, flowers..and seen 2 apple trees today while walking to find the train station . its a picture book enviorenment outside :-) and I love them all... Ok..I had a good start today. The customer is located in Norway. Working with other nationalities for some challenging tasks specially working in the project initiation stage where you need to understand the project context and stakeholders clearly and come up with the best customized model for the right context and drive everyone towards it.. That fascinates me all the time. This time it was not that hard as Ive experienced with some projects before.. Most the facts were straight.. When I listened to all the discussions going around I spotted some mostly used keywords by the people;
- Working with Verticals
- Collaborative team- Prioritization- Incremental product deliveries- fear for the risks with offshore model- Difficulties of limiting the scope or defining at once- The visibility of the value out of work.
Further I observed there seems high degree of commitment and enthusiasm by the customer team for the project. So now that its clear I wouldn’t go for any waterfall project initiation in this context. You can see that very clearly. We agreed on Agile (ok - scrum) due to many reasons.
Working with Offshore model is never like working with collocated teams. Offshore itself is very challenging when it comes to Software projects. The biggest problem you experience in offshore model is that isolation after initial study at customer location which leads to most the project failures. The old saying “Out of sight is out of mind” is proven again and again in most the offshore projects. Therefore it’s a key factor that we need to use a work model which doesn’t give that chance of getting isolated though you are in a different geographical location. Scrum facilitates that.
IBM scrum community guide for scrum in distributed team context gives lots of insights about distributed teams using scrum even with teams where there is no overlapping time zones. But I don’t think that’s a good idea anyway unless one team is willing to scarifies their off time – It’s a different discussion anyway.. Point here is that you can see many distributed teams around the world moving towards agile due to this “Out of sight” risk factor.
Ok coming back to my project, the team model, either its going to be 2 scrum teams in 2 locations and working for verticals and then doing scrum of scrums or whether both country resources working in one team with one scrum master and product owner. Both the options its important that you share one product backlog and commit to stories instead having 2 product backlogs.
I have chosen the 2nd option by keeping provision to go for the 1st option when the teams start to grow. We can scale up the model when there were more team members are added to the teams.
Identifying the product owner and the scrum master is another important thing as you identify the Project manager in waterfall project initiation. I always agree with scrum experts that Product owner is the most difficult role to be played in a scrum team.
Product owner is a person who needs a mix of skills, he needs to have a good business vision, Project skills and he is the person who has the final “say” of the product in a scrum team by coordinating with many other stakeholders. Compared with traditional work we did before this is like Scrum team is transferring the risks of requirements outside the team to the Product owner (Yes its Risk transferring up to an extend I should say )
In this project I managed to spot a Product owner after our initial discussions and thank god he agreed to play the role. ! Im so happy about that because I saw that clear idea about what they need is mostly lies with him. So his main tasks would be now to create themes, assigned values with other stakeholders, prioritize them.. After that we will be discussing about his release plan and then set the product backlog accordingly.
Identifying scrum master – in this team model should he be in Norway or in SrI Lanka. Looking at the current context we decided that the scrum master should come from Norway team. Which is a good decision for the model 2 right now. Further he has experience using scrum so it will be a good choice. I have 4 more days to go.. Not full days.. its challenging to do the rest of the tasks left to complete during rest of the days.. I need to structure my time well to prioritize on what I have to do. Stakeholder reporting and training team on scrum values and disciplines is another vital task requested to do at the initiation. Need to look at the risk analysis too. So I have few busy but “my kind of work” ahead :-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Will Scrum scare away the PM .. I say BIG NO

Recent past this has been a very painful discussion in many organizations moving towards Agile.. What are we to do with our PM? Is he/she going to be a Product Owner, Scrum Master or will work as the developers of the team with his skills of development , testing etc. ? All that is fine.. But don’t forget about the Planning, Leadership, Risk Management and Project knowledge what your PM has gained over the years which is really helpful even in a scrum team for a medium to large scale projects. I understand there is no logic in converting PM to Scrum Master unless he understands and capable of playing this “servant based leadership” (they call it ) role.
Look at the following Scenario what we need to do when following a scrum project from top to bottom,

Product Vision -Themes -Values -Roadmap -Release plan -User stories -Product backlog - Sprint Backlog - Daily Scrum

Most the early stage work is the main responsibility of the product owner, however when you look at making release plans based on business values, budgets, stakeholder requirements, PO needs lots of support from the team as well as support from an experienced project manager would be invaluable. PM comes with lots of experience in foreseen risks, keeping team together with good spirit, protecting team from outside disturbances, being visionary about the project and specially some instincts about team skills J , So in that case I think a PM skills can be used in many ways as a very important role for scrum teams specially if there are many scrum teams involved in a project. One way to position him is to be outside of the team, acting a coaching role to help the PO in various scenarios throughout the project. But if the PM can be converted to a good scrum master who will serve this "Servant based leadership" the value he or she can provide is really good when compare with a techie who has no much experience of looking at the project perspectives becoming a scrum master.. I think its all about a mentality change which needs to play this new role by using your valuable skills. There are quite lot of opportunities for a skilled PM in agile environment either outside the team as a coach to work with PO or inside the team as a Scrum master.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

WOW !!! is Scrum Alliance is all about money ???

I was thinking of upgrading my Scrum master status to Scrum Practitioner and I did the case study which was provided to gain the status., Following is the email I receieved from Scrum alliance today after inspecting the case study...

Hi Thushara,Congratulations! Your application has been approved. The next step is to submit payment of $250 to complete the process. You can do so by clicking on the link below.

Once you've submitted payment your profile should be updated within one week. Your SA profile will show your new CSP certification status and your certification will be effective for a duration of 2 years. If you have any questions regarding your profile, please direct them to

Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Warm Regards,

Scrum Alliance Certification Administrator

I think when you think "Agile " this fee is way out :-)
And further if you are interested to get CST , in SL money you got to pay Rs 80K + and again this CSP validity is only for 2 years. Im thinking whether its worth to upgrade to CSP or not now. Becuase I have to maintain many professional titles from various professional bodies and the anual charges to maintain them is already too much.. :-) and I rarely use the titles.. unless the rule says its a must :-)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Individual Appraisals in an Agile Team

Thanks to my Project Managers.. They asked me this question lately when I was talking about scrum for upcoming projects.. How do we conduct the annual appraisals of the individual team members when practicing Agile?.. Specially Scrum. Because I have been chanting the mantra all the time ....."Scrum is all about team and not about individuals. :-)....
We could think of many ways , But I wanted to get to know about how other industry experts who practice Scrum do this. I asked few people , Mostly they all had the same answer , “if you win as a team you win. If you fail as a team you fail. What’s the purpose of the appraisal if your product is not delivered” But the problem is that almost all of them are in to different work culture and I find its difficult to practice the same principles they practice when it comes to SL context. At least till we get in there.

I found some very good sources here for individual appraisals in Agile environment. Hope this will help you to build a appraisal system for your Agile team members.

The Scrum Team


The Scrum Team

Scrum teams do not include any of the traditional software engineering roles such as programmer, designer, tester, or architect. Everyone on the project works together to complete the set of work they have collectively committed to complete within a sprint. Scrum teams develop a deep form of camaraderie and a feeling that "we're all in this together."

A typical Scrum team is 6-10 people but Jeff Sutherland has scaled Scrum up to over 500 people and I have used it with over 150.

- Mountain Goat software

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Scrum ?


Friday, July 10, 2009

P2P Global conference 2009


P2P 2009 Global project management conference is scheduled to be held in Cairo on 2nd, 3rd and 4th November at Hotel Marriot.
You can find more information about the conference on

I will be addressing the conference in 3 sessions and I will be doing my presentations based on following abstracts.
Software project management in outsourced project environment and Risk mitigation.
Outsourced projects over geographical boundaries have been always a challenge when it comes to project management. Either large scale or small scale, the risk of the project failures remain the same.
The presentation will discuss the challenges which project managers’ may face for the projects outsourced over boundaries and the common risk factors based on experience gained by managing and consulting various outsourced projects over a decade for a global clientele.
The Risk involved in outsourced projects from both customer and the software vender, the culture difference and how to overcome issues, communication, working with time differences, working with unknown parties, trust, and security issues in such projects will be discussed in details.
Further the challenges in Agile and waterfall methods in outsourced project environments will also be discussed.
The topic will be much related to the connected chapters as emerging software outsourcing markets.

Introducing Scrum to Your Organization
Successfully introducing Scrum into a non-Agile environment can be a very complicated endeavor. This presentation will cover critical areas of focus, risks and challenges your organization may face when crossing the bridge to Agile. This lecture will include an examination of the transition to Agile from the perspective of the organization as a whole, as well as individual stakeholders.

Effective Communication When Using Scrum
Communication is an important aspect of project management. According to the PMBOK, Project Managers spend 80-90% of their time communicating. When working with a lightweight Agile framework like Scrum, the risk of miscommunication can increase significantly if you aren’t vigilant about your messaging. This session will discuss the opportunities and risks a project manager faces when working with the Scrum framework. Participants should leave this talk with a deeper understanding of the risks to watch out for, as well as the new opportunities for enhanced communication that are created by using one of the most popular Agile methodologies.

Its my first time to address such a big conference and I wish I have enough time for preparations. :-)


P2P 2009 Global project management conference is scheduled to be held in Cairo on 2nd, 3rd and 4th November at Hotel Marriot.
You can find more information about the conference on

I will be addressing the conference in 3 sessions and I will be doing my presentations based on following abstracts.
Software project management in outsourced project environment and Risk mitigation.
Outsourced projects over geographical boundaries have been always a challenge when it comes to project management. Either large scale or small scale, the risk of the project failures remain the same.
The presentation will discuss the challenges which project managers’ may face for the projects outsourced over boundaries and the common risk factors based on experience gained by managing and consulting various outsourced projects over a decade for a global clientele.
The Risk involved in outsourced projects from both customer and the software vender, the culture difference and how to overcome issues, communication, working with time differences, working with unknown parties, trust, and security issues in such projects will be discussed in details.
Further the challenges in Agile and waterfall methods in outsourced project environments will also be discussed.
The topic will be much related to the connected chapters as emerging software outsourcing markets.

Introducing Scrum to Your Organization
Successfully introducing Scrum into a non-Agile environment can be a very complicated endeavor. This presentation will cover critical areas of focus, risks and challenges your organization may face when crossing the bridge to Agile. This lecture will include an examination of the transition to Agile from the perspective of the organization as a whole, as well as individual stakeholders.

Effective Communication When Using Scrum
Communication is an important aspect of project management. According to the PMBOK, Project Managers spend 80-90% of their time communicating. When working with a lightweight Agile framework like Scrum, the risk of miscommunication can increase significantly if you aren’t vigilant about your messaging. This session will discuss the opportunities and risks a project manager faces when working with the Scrum framework. Participants should leave this talk with a deeper understanding of the risks to watch out for, as well as the new opportunities for enhanced communication that are created by using one of the most popular Agile methodologies.

Its my first time to address such a big conference and I wish I have enough time for preparations. :-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Project Management 2.0

The talk of the town ! Project Management 2.0 :-)
Yea we all know that Project management has moved a long way from traditional management and those long gone methods are not recognized anymore. The days that project manager becomes the center for all the information and he filters information for various stakeholders and make stake holder updates are long gone. In modern project management, information transparency is provided to all the stakeholders by the project itself and there is no central control of information by the project manager. Everybody becomes equally intelligent about the project and all the stakeholders contribute to the success of the project due to high degree of transparency.
Okiii…what’s so big about Project Management 2.0.? Actually I don’t see anything big .. But it’s a name given for using social media for project management ( I know Wiki will not tell you the exact words , But this is simply the idea about it .)
Oki.... this is what Wiki tells you..
“Project Management 2.0[1] (social project management[2]) is the natural evolution of project management practices brought by Web 2.0 technologies “
I think this is a very cool concept..You can see many project managers moving out of complex tools, stake holder reports, various templates to simple tools like Twitter , Wiki , facebook ??:-), blogs ..sounds funny ? No its not..
Ok I know your first question.. Where is the security of your project info?
You know that you can protect your twitter updates and discuss about the project status updates etc among the team members? Honestly I have not done that yet… but today I talked with one of my PM friends in Florida who does that in his projects.. When one of his team members travelling with a blackberry, instead opening a complex Excel sheet, he can get in to his favorite twitter.. How easy for you to see what happened in your project and status updates and with a simple twitter..?
(Oh I remember that I had a discussion with somebody lately about Twitter/ FB type look and feel for business applications.. And that person just ripped me off to pieces for bringing up this thinking for business applications… It just came to my mind when writing this post.. Anyway forget it ….not relevant here sorry …lets get back to Project Management 2.0 :)
I heard that most the complex tools even with portfolio management features are now trying to integrate with social media. Example :Facebook. .. Wow you go…..
How does that happen..? hmmm ...I can use my fantasies and think of many ways..:-)
One thing I learned.. you can have facebooks created for your team working around the world., In a construction project, if you need to take pictures of current problems, installations, uploaded to the software and publish directly via facebook to your whole team located in several parts of the world. They will see all the updates instantly… Isnt it cool :-) ?
If you want to learn more about project management 2.0 there are lots of resources available in the web.., I find my friend, Cornelius’ latest 2 podcasts (find them at is really cool sources for this. At the same time I see Dave and many other professionals around the world posted some good stuff to the web. Ask Google more about it :-)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Revamping of Projectized..

Yesterday one of my colleagues was discussing some stuff on this blog and I got some exiting comments about how popular this is in some of the search engines. I was very happy by the comments because I can see over hundreds of people visiting this blog every day but very few times my colleagues refer to it or comment about it J So thanks for the comments..
Anyway I looked at this blog today and I think I need to care about her little more.. I just felt that I don’t give a fair care on it.. Obviously its due to my other priorities. Now it’s that high time I need to think of revamping the blog as.....

1. I earn from the blog more than I ever expected now. Thank you for my advertising sponsor and the kind readers who purchase the courses. I think this can be further improved.

2. I have messed up with blog links.. Many readers have commented that some of the links don’t work but I have been too bad I have not even replied to them with a thank you note and corrected those links.

3. Some outdated material need their reference to new material

4. My profile has been changed.. need updates

5. Need more linking up and some marketing gadgemetics inserted in this :-)

6. I should stop posting un related posts and be focused on PM posts

7. Im screwed up with tags.. I need to sort them out, which is number 1 priority.

8. I need to provide reference articles to blog posts for some of the sites who have requested them

9. Most importantly I need to link up with PMI chapter and blog

10. Need to do something to keep interactive with the readers.

Ok Im thinking to revamp it in 2010 :-)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chapter Magazine

I joined PMI Colombo chapter at last :) after few friends pushed me so hard. :)!! True enough I have my plate full at this time.. But still I found some interest to join the Local PM community as I felt I could do something helpful for the PM professionals in SL via the chapter. So you will hear me whining about time more often now: D
Very first meeting was with few of the senior members of the chapter. They updated me with many things going on in the chapter such as education programs carried out by them, some initiatives to increase the number of certified Project managers in Sri Lanka and what really caught my attention was the concept of National PMO, Which I will not discuss here.
The Second meeting was more focused on how I should contribute to the chapter more actively.. there… I volunteered to get in to the publishing committee of the chapter and help them on the chapter web site and the new publications.
Ok now this is a good news for SL PMPs. I know all of you may not get an opportunity to publish your articles, case studies in PMI Network magazine. Simply because there are more than half a million members and credential holders in over 170 countries who may seek space in that. What we decided was to publish a local chapter magazine in order to provide that space for the SL PMPS who are willing to publish their articles, research work, case studies etc. This will be another channel for them to earn PDUs too. Initially this may be an e magazine.. I don’t know.. But the good thing is that I know we are definitely starting somewhere. The very first magazine may come up with few news columns and articles contributed by our known PMPs whom we can linked up with faster. Anyway all the SL PMPs can contribute to this chapter magazine and the articles will be selected and published by a committee. May be nothing much exiting to you yet.. But we need to have a start somewhere. Once we are organized I will publish an email address where other PMPs can contribute content to the magazine.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How to claim for 60 PDUs fast!

Are you a PMP ? Ok this is the most important post Im going to write in this blog for you .If you are also a PMP in my category who waited till the last moment to claim PDUs ( Please I don’t recommend that period! PMI can always reject what you claim so you need time for that) and in the mission of saving your title for another 3 years.. This post will sound music to you. First thank you Shawan Futter( ,Dr. Madhu and Cornelius ( for all the help. Ok Here we go. 15 points – Category 2 SDL If you are a regular listener of PMPodcast , (If not you can start now ) claim 15 points per one cycle.. ( has more details 15 Points – Category 2h If you are really doing PM related work, you can claim 5 for each year so you got another 15. Now itself you got 30., ok the next 30 is the challenge.. I will do it and update the post.. :) wait ….
Here you go for the next 30..
10 Points – Category 2g
Have you done any research on new Project Management method or framework ? why not creating a presentation on that as training material and train your own colleagues ? Or if you are in to PM consultancy, you can use that for various teams training. There you can get 10 PDUs.

5 Points – Category 2 Activity
Create a Project Management forum in your own company with people who are interested to share knowledge and talk about Project Management related stuff. You are the moderator of this forum, have weekly meetings.. there you can collect 5 PDUs.

15 Points – category 5
This is really a good one . Under volunteer activity you know that you can claim PDUs for your PM subject specific blog? You can claim 5 points per year so you can get maximum of 15 points there. But be honest they do an audit J

There are many more available. If you are doing some formal higher studies on Project Management, if you do a research degree and publish journals, you can collect many PDUs easily. But above is the most easiest path I have found.

Special note for Sri Lankan PMPs who will be losing their credentials soon…. I know there are lots of PMPs in SL right now.. and I know many of them are going to lose their credentials this year :) I was one of them before. Just like you guys, I also like to attend to worldwide seminars, conferences and earn PDUS but there is a big price to pay for these as we are located in SL. Traveling is very costly and these seminars are costly when you convert to Rupees. I know there are ways that you can purchase PM stuff, learn and then claim for PDUs. …Again you need money.. I know most of us are not invited to address our PM chapter dinners etc ;-) so we don’t get PDUs from that way. In the same time most of us have not written any books or published journals. Then how do we do this??? Don’t worry … Still you can claim for PDUs for what you have done .. Remember how hard it was for us to do this PMP exam.. Sooo many questions..PMBOK guides, online test exams, remembering inputs and outputs of each phase of the cycle ( Shoot me !! ) , Rita’s book.. oh its a nightmare.. So don’t lose what you have gained in hard way.. Actually I also believed that earning PDUs is unbelievably difficult task till few PMPs guided me on how to do this without spending any money. All what you have to do is all the days do your reading, participate online forums etc. , help other Project managers and practice as a Project Management professional. I specially thought to post this blog post for you guys to help to claim PDUs. I will improve this post to make it much more usable as much as information I find day by day…

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SQL Server Books..


Okii.. This is not about Project Management.. But something which I think worth dedicating a post of my blog for.

In the past I’ve been very lucky to work with colleagues who have quite unique skills in IT industry and the guys who pitched the top in their own technical domains.. They have been always a great inspiration to me..

This is another breakthrough of one of my current colleagues at Exilesoft., He published 2 Books.. WOW can you believe this.. I hardly can write a half page blog post.. But this guy, having 2 small kids at home, doing really a good job at office.. wrote 2 books..Unbelievable... (Of course Sri Lankan men don’t work at home ;-) that’s a different story )

Check his books and his blog here..

His blog

He is a great inspiration to me !!! J and I wish him all the success. !

Sunday, April 19, 2009

PMBOK guide for free..

You can download the 4th Edition of PMBOK guide free now..
To access the digital edition of the PMBOK® Guide:
Logon to Your Members Area
Select the Resources tab
Go to Global Standards Library
Click on "Library of PMI Global Standards"
Click on "Projects (View Details)
Right Click on Language and select "Save Target As.."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Scrum tool in the market - Agilo...

Good news is that I found this “seems to be cool “ Agile PM tool “Agilo”
The bad news is that they charge 29 Euro for 30 day trial.. Smart ha.. ;-)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Newbie to Agile.. Some random things based on my experience so far..

1. Scrum is only one of the Agile methods. There are many. But at the moment Scrum is the most popular due to its simplicity and not forgetting the scrum alliance marketing effort too.. ;-)

2. I had a situation where the product owner had an idea.. Agile is no documentation.. period!.. This is not right! If you look at what Agile Manifesto says “they prefer working software over comprehensive documentation and not over any documentation. The point is that more effort should be for making software and not for making documentation. But we always need simple good documentation in software. Which is a known factor.

3. Can the none technical Project Manager becomes the Scrum master? My answer is YES. But still if you have a choice, go for the technical guy. Because in Scrum the “Management “ is very less. All what you have is team work and coordination and resolving impediments. When the Scrum master is a techie he will be very efficient in conducting the scrum stand up meetings in the morning and resolving technical impediments for the team members to sign in for respective tasks. But still if the scrum master is none technical.. its team work.. get the techies to help you in all the aspects…

4. Sometimes I see many think that you don’t have to commit on a release date in scrum. No.. in real world it doesn’t happen like that. There is always a tentative date.. But what happens is that based on the changes to the PB, your time expansions or reductions become much more visible to the product owner. Therefore there will be lesser problems to convince on expanded time lines

5. How do we do the DB design , Architecture UI themes etc? Part by part for each delivery? No what best I have experienced is that have a pre sprint on those high level tasks which you need to perform for the whole project at once. But minimize them and have only the vital ones.

6. How do we use Scrum for research projects? – I think it’s the ideal. Very uncertain type of work.. Scrum works fine !

7. Do we still have to do reporting to the management? YeAAS – Recently I read an Article by Mike and he suggest to continue the same type of reporting as much as possible till Agile thinking mature in the organization.

8. Is Gantt charts needed.. For me the answer is “NO” but again Ive seen many agile gurus have mentioned that .. use it as a communication tool if really needed by someone.. But personally I don’t like Gantt charts..

9. Is MS Project needed for Scrum : NOOOOO

10. How about the WBS ? I say keep it as the component diagram for the project.. this has many advantages over disadvantages.

11. How long a waterfall team will take to convert to a scrum team: My experience is 2 days most the time.

12. Is planning Poker a must? Nope Nope.. But when you don’t play cards some team members start to play ;-) specially in SL context not all team members talk. Planning poker help to define your ideas and stand by it ., then there will be so much valuable points coming from the team about a particular user story. I find it helpful.

13. Do you only assign the weight to a task in the sprint? No for me number of hours at this point is also important.. the secret is not more than 16 hours per task.

14. Can you compare velocity of multiple teams to identify team performance? : NO because there is no base for that. Different team may assess weight to similar tasks differently.

15. How do you practice scrum in outsourced Projects? A million dollar question. But still possible.. there are many tools which may help with customer communication when it comes to product backlog and sprint backlog. The secret is ask the product backlog in advance.. so you can be well prepared..

16. Will the PO always write user stories?.. Hmm…….. :)Somebody has to do all the work sometimes…

17. One tip I would give is that when playing planning poker.. get the moderator to write notes about the requirements elaborated by the PO and the team. Recording the conversation is really a good idea.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Here I am.. This is me :-)

PM Network April Issue 2009
PM Network April Issue 2009 thush_ksnz1981

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Speachless Monday


I will let him speak :-)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Initiating Scrum at a new customer and training the team .

Last week I had really a good opertunity. A customer located in Stavenger wanted to impliment SCRUM for their project management process. So I was just there to help them on that with a new project.

The customer didn’t have any matured project management methodologies, frameoworks or tools already in place. Therefore setting up the new process was much more easier.
When we arrived, they have already got the “Ideal place” for the scrum team. It was a very open spacious room with a round table , White board.. so everybody could sit there and dicuss ideas freely. The highlight was all the refreshments and foods (wont forget Cinnamon and honey muffins )and drinks and chocolotes.. wow I love this scrum team.
Ok How did I start?

I had an idea about the customer and the nature of business/Projects before I arrived.
1. First I explained them the difference between our normal traditional project management methodologies and scrum. As most the people i meet, some of this team members also thought Agile is Scrum. So I had to explain them Scrum is Agile and Agile is not scrum :) then again I made it very clear to them the difference between looking at software project management from the manufacturing angle instead of looking at the construction industry.

2. Once they had a good overview about the framework , I asked one of their team members to give an overview of the project which they have selected to manage using scrum as a Pilot Scrum project. The idea is to manage this project using scrum, get the Scrum culture introduced to the organisation , and then once the project is sucessful, to roleout the process to all the company projects.
(Another nice thing which I couldn’t mention about this scrum team is that they had 2 members from Stavenger and 2 Members from my SL team onsite .. so multi cultural team)

3. Then we started assigning roles.. Who is going to be a product owner , Scrum master and the team and their expertiese. We decided the software manager of the company as the product owner for this specific product as he has the ownership of the product and easy access to all the stakeholders.
4. The Teachlead of the team became the scrum master and my 2 guys and other developers were the scrum team.
5. So we started creating a product backlog. Before me arriving they have created one .. But it looked more like a task list to me. And it had 300 items.. So we started creating a product backlog to create a web application framework for the company .
6. Once we created the product backlog.. I trained them on how to play planning poker and weigh the product backlog. We were not prepared with a proper planning poker card set so we just created our own sets.
7. It was bit exausting excersise at first to get the team and the product owner in to Planning poker. But after 2 , 3 user stories there was really a good progress.
8. Then the product owner added the priority to each story. For this product owner everythign was 1st priority.. so there I am again.. Convincing :)
9. Then he mentioned at what points he needs releases.
10. We called it a day there as we all were exausted.. Specialy the product owner. :)
11. The next day .. we all met at 8 Am.. ( I had only 2 days allocated for this whole thing and I had to leave at 4 PM to the Airport to take a flight to Oslo back. So it was not easy..)
12. Ok the sprint planning meeting. The mangement had some concern ….do we have to spend this much of time for these planing sessions.?. My Answer was “Yes” Because in scrum, the time we spend for planning session is not just planning task. We ellaborate hell of a lot there when it comes to requirements and moderator can just document them as a base for requirement doc .
13. They wanted 5 day scprint first.. Quite strange but nice. Because the idea of the 1st sprint was to complete studying the exisitng framework and system and coming up with a new frame work design.
14. We selected the required user stories and then split them in to atomic level tasks.. The time was not right to play a planning poker game again to asign caleries for each task so the team disucsss and weigh the sprint ( Yes I don’t recommend this.. but some times we have to use shortcuts at trainings J )
15. Then the number of hours were also specified for the tasks. This was bit of a hard thing.
16. I explained them how they should start dailiy scrum meeting next day and thehow they should track caleries burned each day by each team member.
17. Then they asked me what tools to use, any scrum tools off the shelf, team system what? I said NO. because at this time what is important is the concept and how they use it to run the project. Not the tool. So I prepared some Excel templates for the product Backlog, Product Burn down velocity, Sprint back log, sprint burn down velocity , Impediment log and Sprint review template. So they have to work with XL first as it’s the most simplest way to do it.
18. It was time for me to depart.. they showed lot of confidence on the method.. it will take some time to establish as the main challenge of scrum is the mentality change and not anything else.
It was kinda sad to leave such a good team, but they can contact me at any time for any clarifications so there were no much risks.
Overall it was really nice 2 days and good workshop.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is a dumb question..?

Ok first of all I don’t believe there are any dumb questions.. Its only dumb people. No questions are dumb. But people who don’t question are really dumb.
As a project Manager /Scrum master you need your team members to ask questions. You need your product owner /customer to ask questions.. you need your senior management and other stakeholders to ask you questions. If they don’t question and if they don’t ask questions freely , the payback you have will be too much for you to handle at the end of the project.
So how do you get people around you to question you ..? Its very simple... Create that environment around the project. Make it a project culture.. Every team member should be able to question about each other and about the product.. and about the requirements.
To my surprise I have come across with many project managers who create a shield to prevent others questioning about the project by being defensive for questions. This is really a bad syndrome. They have no idea how others around them could really help them to get them on line. Early awareness about issues to the management and to the customer really help to find solutions before its too late.
I still cant understand why a project manger cannot show his or her application design to a business manager.. and questions such as .. by looking at from the outside , do you think that this is user friendly enough ? Do you see any risks in this schedule which I have not seen so far.. its really important for a project managers to create this situation in any project. We all know scrum facilitate this situation. But unfortunately all the projects under the sun are not proper scrum projects. So no matter what the methodologies you use or technologies you use, it’s totally up to you to create enough transparency about your projects to encourage questions.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Project Management in global economy crisis situation..


If you are a software company, depending on outsourced projects from western; USA, Europe, What may come along your way now ?How you should analyze the risk and get prepared to face the worst and still to deliver your projects as planned? Something to think about J
After hearing many things happening in the industry what I can see coming along our way are as follows;

1. Reducing resources of your projects which are in execution. This can happen if you are in to fixed price deals – Customer may ask you to reduce the number of heads in the project. Even internally, due to employee recession and recruitment freeze there will be corporate decisions to reduce the number of resources of your projects.
2. Requests for reducing the cycle time of the project- You may get requests to cut down on processes and documentation. You may get this request very often. A project which you spent 10 months to develop may have to be delivered within 6 months by cutting corners from your lengthy documentation and processes.
3. Even your teams may be over loaded with resources. – If you are in accompany where they have lost few projects due to the situation and still keeping the resources in house due to many reasons, your projects may get overloaded unless they get together and develop a specific product to the market.
4. You may have hear the news all of sudden “ we need to stop this project now because the customer or the investor stopped funding this project” What would be your position as the project Manager?
5. Some of your team members may not in focus and May not in their peak of productivity as they are so concerned about their lost hopes of increments, bonus, and even the stability of the company and their jobs.
6. Quality process may dropped drastically due to all these reasons
7. Sometimes only must have features will be requested.. If you are practicing scrum the product owner may satisfy with the project after first few sprints which delivers his core functionalities
8. You may have to cut down your project budgets dramatically, your team allowances, entertainments, team building activities will be a question mark.

Still you are a lucky PM ? why ? you still have a project to manage with all these problems and test your real PM skills of working under tremendous pressure.. .
As a PM nothing worst than not having any projects in your company to manage J

Lets discuss this further in a future post..

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