Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Managing an agile project portfolio. – Part 3

Coming soon!

Managing an agile project portfolio. – Part 2


My next focus area is the team model. Especially in the context of distributed software engineering, I have to work with many projects where there are distributed teams involved. So I try to capture some of the key information about the team models used in each project.

Team collaboration model
The team collaboration model can be tightly integrated team member concept with all the locations (working on 1 vertical) , or loosely integrated teams from different locations running scrum of scrum  (working on multiple verticals) or even it can be independent teams in each location. So I would capture the collaboration model based on geography distribution.

Further I would find how many members are involved in each location for each project/team. That will give me a good overview about the developer distribution of the projects across geographies in each project.

Role of Product owner
Do you have a product owner?
In most projects we work with, there is a product owner or owners working with the team. In some of the projects, there are no Product owners and the team owns the product.

Is the product owner role effective?
Better to know. Mostly with offshore development teams, the success of the product is highly dependent on the guidance of the onsite product owner who is closer to the real users of the system and market conditions. I try to get the teams to score this in a scale of 1-5(1 as the least effective and 5 as sufficient). There are many factors we can consider to rate the effectiveness of the PO role. (Ex: prioritization, ownership of the functional requirements, participation for grooming meetings, timely decisions, ownership of the backlog etc.)

Use of Product owner proxies
Not very popular, however not very uncommon either in most offshore-onshore engagements. Better to know which projects of yours use Proxies for distant team members.

Role of Team Lead/Scrum master
Its important to know whether there is a scrum master in each location, each team or whether the scrum master is located in a different location. This needs to be figured out with the team collaboration model as well. However, from the project office perspective, you will know that when you have distant scrum masters in the team, you need more facilitation to the team members in other locations. Its hard for a remote scrum master to feel the pain of his or her team members.

Testers role
Do you have designated testers within each project team?
Do you use any external test teams before releases?

Managing an agile project portfolio. – Part 1


If your project office is growing with multiple agile projects, its important to have a picture about the different methods and models you use to run various projects across the organization. The days we thought that one process can be applied to all our projects across the project office are long gone. Its required to model the right approach to the right project.

When you are done with the following matrix I explain here, you will be able to have good 1st hand insights about your portfolio. Further, it will help you to spot the projects which need more assistance from your PMO to make them successful.

Following are some of the records I find its important to maintain across the project portfolio to get a glance at all the projects we execute.

 I would list all my project list horizontally and have following questions vertically in my matrix. so I can discuss with all the teams to fill the matrix with proper info.

Agile method used:
What sort of process followed by each project?.. mostly I want to findlout whether the process ‘looks more like’  SCRUM/KANBAN/XP  ( these are the mostly used agile methods across our project organization)

Many would say .. Ok I don’t follow exactly Scrum because we don’t do this this and this.. But its more like Scrum because we do this and this. Fine.  So you can answer the question.

When I glance at the project portfolio I can see many projects use KANBAN specially when they have completed their main development work.

Product Vision
Do you have a proper product vision ?
Are all the key stakeholders in agreement with the product vision?

Of-course 'NO' is an acceptable answer.. still from the project governance perspective its better to know that how many of your teams develop products without knowing why they develop it or where the light of the tunnel is . Various stakeholders may see various different lights and the teams will have total confused situations.  

Do you have a product roadmap
Your vision may be clear. But how about the way to go there? Have you got a high-level product roadmap  in each project.? Or you have no idea about the roadmap at least for few iterations ahead ?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Software craftsmanship skills


When it comes to agile engineering practices, software craftsmanship skills are very important. Today, our engineering approaches with less documentation, team collaboration and incremental continuous deliveries demand your craftsmanship skills as never before.

There have been many initiatives by many software companies and organizations recently to help our industry for acquiring such skills. It’s so better than just complaining about lacking skills in our own industry.

www.coderetreat.lk is such an initiative taken by us, We have invited a reputed community expert to come to Sri Lanka and do pair programming with our software engineers to improve their coding styles.  As a contribution to the industry, we decided to open such event to public so that many developers out there also can gain the benefit of the event. 

This will happen on 2nd June, It’s a long weekend in Sri Lanka. However, all what matters is your passion! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sprint 0 (0th Sprint)


What is it?

'Sprint 0' means the only sprint where we deliver 0 business value in scrum process. Recently I attended to a session @Exilesoft when Fincyka talked about 0th Sprint in projects and her team's experience with it. That was an awesome presentation and I was happy to be there because it made me to re think about this so called 0th Sprint.

How long is it ?

So if the 0th Sprint is a 0 business value sprint, how long this sprint should be ? If you search, you will find many sources which says its around 5 – 10 days sprint. But is it true?

I can remember Scott Amber ( IBM) mentioned in one of his talks @AgileIndia that, in average, the 0 sprint is 4- 6 weeks. Its based on his research.

I’ve seen many teams trying hard to fix their 0th sprint within this 5- 10 days time box. But my opinion is based on my experience with agile. I advise teams not to get in to this trap. I believe that 0th sprint duration should be completely depended on your project context. Only rule to remember is that if you do agile, you need to start producing some working software pretty fast. So if you understand the basic theory behind agility and your project context, these rules won’t matter anymore.

When we start 0th Sprint.?

Good Question.. J I have seen many new scrum teams trying to derive the backlog within the 0th sprint. Then they wonder what this scrum is all about. How do you get the idea of a huge system you got to develop within few days? At least how do you identify even enough epics within that time? Obviously something is wrong.

Usual scrum process starts from the time you have a product vision and a backlog. – Remember Ken
Schwaber once mentioned that the minimum requirement to start a Scrum project is to have a Product backlog and a product vision. So there you get the point.

My experience after practicing agile for many years (and still trying to understand it) is that 0th sprint is used mostly to do the agile modeling, be prepared for next few sprints with enough base to build up on, sometimes even writing a piece of code to prove some architecture aspect. To me, team modeling, team building and other pre-work should happen at the project initiation stage.

Only one '0 Sprint' or many of them?

Simply I don’t care what you learn during your CSM. Imagine a large project, which runs over 7, 8 months or sometimes years. You really need to have certain time in-between to do design revisits, refine the roadmaps, and do other work to be ready for next few sprints. So its obvious that you have these 0 business value delivery time boxes in between, aren’t they 0 sprints as well ?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Agile India 2012


#agileindia2012 was a good experience and my first time to speak in an Asian conference. Arranging such a big conference is not an easy task, hats off to Naresh Jain and his crew for such a successful event.
If you ask what I like the most;
Agile India attracted speakers from various parts the world. That made the conference very rich. Further most the speakers I managed to link up with are really hands on people, not just consultants or coaches, so our discussions were very productive.
I was lucky to have few of my colleagues from #exilesoft with me. It has a big difference to traveling to a conference alone. However most the delegates were very collaborative, friendly and supportive. Out of conference time was so much fun, traveling around Bangalore city was a new experience.
Further the level of attention given to speakers by the organizing committee was amazing, I didn’t have a single thing to worry about from the time I confirmed the session. Visa arrangements, hotel booking and everything were taken care of.

I like the fact that they got Freeset to do a keynote speech. I was speechless. How can you think of doing business in such different way? This session made me remember Simen Sinek’s book I read few weeks back – WHY before WHAT.

Most the sessions I managed to participate were very good. Always there are things to learn. I like if I didn’t miss much sessions, however preparing for my speech was important to me as I couldn’t do much work prior to the conference.
Some of the sessions I remember the most would be, Theory of constraint – an easy way to learn by Masa Maeda, Agile is not the easy way out by Rebecca Parsons, The agile scaling model by Scott Ambler, From DevOps to NoOps : Jira development team by Bryce Johnson and Autopsy of failed agile projects by Evan Leybourn. There were other good sessions too I attended to and Im sure I missed some of the really good ones as well. Its not possible to attend to all the interesting sessions in a conference as such.
I walked in to lightning talks stage and I was lucky enough to watch Peder’s hi5 driven development session. It was so much fun and he has an amazing personality to present. I wish if he had a 3o – 60 min session coz it was never boring to listen to him.
Talking about my session 'Bridging the gap between your traditional HR department and agile project organization’ was based on IEEE paper (E-ISBN: 978-0-7695-4370-3 and Print ISBN: 978-1-61284-426-8). As usual I had lots of fun talking about this subject. Im glad that the audience enjoyed the talk and managed to relate with their experience on organization wide agile adoption.
I will try to publish some photographs later.


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